Stardust nightclub tragedy to be re-examined

One of the leading barristers in the State is to re-examine files on the Stardust tragedy, the Government announced this morning.

One of the leading barristers in the State is to re-examine files on the Stardust tragedy, the Government announced this morning.

John Gallagher SC has agreed to undertake an independent examination of reports submitted by survivors of the Valentine’s Day nightclub blaze which killed 48 young revellers.

The move is expected to be welcomed by the Stardust Survivors Committee, who have campaigned tirelessly for a new inquiry into the 1981 inferno which injured more than 200 people.

This week angry family members stepped up their campaign for justice, issuing Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with a 48-hour ultimatum to reopen the inquiry - symbolising one hour for every victim.

Antionette Keegan, whose sisters Martina and Mary perished in the fire, vowed to picket his constituency offices every day until the general election and protest at polling stations on voting day.

The survivor claimed the Taoiseach had done nothing despite telling the Dail four months ago he would appoint a barrister to review the case and to make a decision on any new investigation.

“John Gallagher SC has agreed to undertake the external, independent examination of the report 'Nothing but the Truth' submitted to the Government by the Stardust Victims Committee in their campaign for a further Inquiry into the fire disaster of February, 1981 that claimed 48 lives,” said a Government spokesman today.

Mr Gallagher, an eminent legal figure, has represented the Flood Tribunal into planning matters and payments.

The original inquiry, chaired by former Chief Justice Ronan Keane in 1982, determined that the fire had started in an alcove and was probably deliberate arson by unknown people.

However, families of the victims did not accept this finding and on the 25th anniversary of the blaze launched a campaigned for a new inquiry based on a number of issues.

Submitting reports from their own experts, the families believe there was proof of no arson attack.

It also contained allegations that one of the emergency exits was chained and padlocked, two others were obstructed by skips or tables.

Those who tried to escape the blaze through the toilet windows, found they were blocked with metal grilles and steel plates to ensure people did not get into the disco without paying.

It is understood Mr Gallagher will scrutinise all the existing evidence from the original inquiry and examine the dossier on the tragedy compiled by the families, despite them voicing concerns at having the state appointed professional to examine the files.

In February, the bodies of five unidentified victims of the fire were exhumed from a communal plot at St Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton.

It is hoped new DNA testing in the UK will now identify the bodies of Richard Bennett, Michael Ffrench, Murtagh Kavanagh, Eamon Loughman and Paul Wade, with the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice Michael McDowell agreeing to fund the cost of reburials.

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