Families of the Stardust victims have said they are disappointed and frustrated that they have not yet received a decision on their request for fresh inquests to be held into the deaths of their loved ones.
Relatives of 42 of the 48 young people who died in the Valentine’s night disco fire in 1981 were told to expect a decision from the attorney general by mid-July, a date later extended to the end of the month. But the passing of that deadline without a response has left many of them deeply upset.
“We’re here watching the clock tick over to July 31, not sleeping, sick with anxiety, and then we hear nothing,” said Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire that claimed the lives of two of her sisters.
“It’s an insult and it’s so stressful. We feel it’s being put on the long finger and we’re being fobbed off again the way we’ve been fobbed off for 38 years.”
The original inquests were cursory and incomplete, recording only the medical cause of death where it could be determined. They were held over just four days in 1982 and most of the verdicts simply referred to death from burns and smoke inhalation.
Contributing factors such as the circumstances of the fire itself were not explored and the relatives believe a vital opportunity has been missed to make findings that could have properly assigned blame and possibly resulted in criminal proceedings.
They have also unearthed evidence that neither the original inquests nor the tribunal of inquiry into the disaster considered. They cite the recently reopened Hillsborough and Ballymurphy inquests as examples that could be followed in uncovering the truth decades after multiple deaths.
A formal request was made last April to Attorney General Séamus Woulfe to order new inquests as he is empowered to do under section 24 of the Coroners Act 1964.
The previous November, the relatives had marched to his office and presented him with 48,000 postcards signed by members of the public backing their campaign.
“He’s known what we were asking for since last November and he’s had our formal submission since April and now we’re in limbo. We’re going day to day not knowing if this is the day we’ll hear something,” said Ms Keegan.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with representatives of the families in May and wrote to them in early July confirming that he had spoken with the Attorney General since.
Neither the Taoiseach’s department nor the Office of the Attorney General had responded to requests to comment at the time of publication.