48,000 signed postcards delivered to AG calling on reopening of Stardust inquests

The Attorney General has taken delivery of 48,000 signed postcards calling on him to reopen the inquests of the Stardust fire victims.

48,000 signed postcards delivered to AG calling on reopening of Stardust inquests

The Attorney General has taken delivery of 48,000 signed postcards calling on him to reopen the inquests of the Stardust fire victims.

Relatives of the 48 young people who died in the Valentines disco in 1981, survivors and their supporters walked together to the office of the Government's legal advisor carrying batches of the cards in 48 boxes.

They were accompanied by singer Christy Moore whose song, They Never Came Home, written about the fire and banned by the courts for several years, was played as they walked.

Representatives of the Bloody Sunday Trust and the Carrickmines fire families also walked in support. The group stopped at the steps of the Attorney General's office and handed in the boxes to an official before reading out the names of the dead.

Darragh Mackin, solicitor for the Stardust Victims Committee, said a formal application for the reopening of the inquests under Section 24 of the Coroners Act 1962 would be made to Attorney General Seamus Woulfe before Christmas. The campaign is waiting for a report from a fire expert involved in the Grenfell fire investigation in London.

"We have our legal submissions ready and we're just waiting for the fire expert but really, a decision to reopen the inquests doesn't have to wait for those. "The argument for doing it in the public interest is overwhelming. The postcard campaign demonstrates that but the argument on its own is very, very strong," he said.

Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire but lost two of her sisters, Mary and Martina, said the relatives had been deeply moved by the public's support. "The public have spoken - 48,000 times," she said. "This proves it is in the public interest to have the inquests reopened."

The original inquests were very brief and delivered medical verdicts only, such as death from burns or smoke inhalation, where it was possible to determine the cause. Full inquests can, however, examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths in detail, as happened with the fresh inquests into the Hillsborough Stadium disaster which delivered a verdict of unlawful killing.

Ms Keegan said the relatives were feeling more confident now than at any time since the original flawed tribunal of inquiry which concluded the fire was due to probable arson - a finding that took 27 years to overturn.

"We were dismissed and fobbed off all those years and we still are but we never gave up and we never will give up until we get truth and justice," she said.

Bridget McDermott, who lost three of her children in the fire, William, George and Marcella, said she hoped this was the last leg of her 37-year campaign for justice.

"I was so taken aback by the public's support and their good wishes when we went out with the postcards so maybe this time we'll be listened to because our children should never have died," she said. Her daughter, Selina McDermott, called on the Government to heed them.

It is a difficult task to look in the mirror and admit tragic mistakes. It is, however, the only way forward to atone and to recover our humanity when unspeakable deeds have been committed.

Maeve McLaughlin of the Bloody Sunday Trust pledged ongoing support for the campaign. "It's been a long time for them - as it was a long time for us - but it's never too late for the truth."

The families were later hosted by Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring in the Mansion House and then visited the Dáil where Independent TD and long-time supporter Tommy Broughan pushed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to meet with them.

Mr Varadkar would not commit to a meeting but said the Attorney General was awaiting the formal application from the relatives. "Once it is received he will give it full consideration and look at it afresh with an open mind," he said.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence