The Attorney General’s office has reassured the Stardust relatives that their request for fresh inquests into the deaths of their loved ones is getting close attention.
Attorney General Seamus Woulfe this week missed a second deadline he had set himself for giving a response to the families’ request.
Relatives described the waiting for an answer as extremely stressful, especially as the hours ticked down to each target date.
In a statement, the AG office said: “The applications made involve the exercise of the Attorney General’s statutory powers under the Coroners Act 1962. The request to reopen the inquests into the deaths of the Stardust fire victims is receiving ongoing and detailed consideration within the Office of the Attorney General. “
No further deadline was provided but it is believed the AG is hopeful of replying to the relatives before the end of this month.
Relatives’ spokeswoman, Antoinette Keegan, said the families were trying to have a positive outlook. “If the Attorney General is still looking at it, it at least means he hasn’t said no. We have to hang on to that as a hopeful sign,” she said. “It’s just very hard to have faith in what’s going on behind closed doors after all these years.”
The families of 42 of the 48 young people who died in the Valentine’s night disco in the Stardust in 1981 have formally requested that the inquests into the deaths of their loved ones be reopened.
The original inquests were all held in the space of four days in 1982 and only very brief evidence was heard. The verdicts were recorded in accordance with the medical evidence - in most cases death from burns and smoke inhalation.
The full powers of a coroner to seek detailed evidence of the circumstances leading to the deaths — such as the cause of the fire itself — were not invoked but that is what the families are saying should now happen.
The original tribunal of inquiry in 1981 infamously concluded the cause of the fire was probable arson although it acknowledged there was no evidence to back up that finding. That finding was overturned following a Government review in 2009 but the families continue to push for a fresh probe in a forum where evidence and witness testimony can be considered.
Under section 24 of the Coroners Act, the attorney general can order the holding of an inquest in circumstances where there has not been one or one has not been satisfactory.