herald

Monday 27 March 2017

Judge to look at 'new evidence' in Stardust fire tragedy, 36 years on

Stardust victims’ families outside Leinster House. From left, Christine Keegan and daughter
Antoinette, Eugene Kelly, Patricia Kennedy and Bridget McDermott and daughter Louise. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Stardust victims’ families outside Leinster House. From left, Christine Keegan and daughter Antoinette, Eugene Kelly, Patricia Kennedy and Bridget McDermott and daughter Louise. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

FINE Gael and the Independent Alliance have resolved the political row over the Stardust tragedy.

Following hours of negotiations, a compromise agreement reached last night will see a judge appointed to examine "new evidence" uncovered by the victims' families.

The judge, who may be drafted in from a different jurisdiction, will be asked to recommend whether a full commission of investigation should immediately follow.

Action

As part of the agreement, the Government will be asked to meet the victims' families to discuss the course of action.

The deal reached will form the basis of a counter-motion tabled by ministers ahead of today's vote in the Dail.

Maurice Frazer, who lost his sister, Thelma. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Maurice Frazer, who lost his sister, Thelma. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

It is widely expected that the counter-motion will be passed in a move that will avert the prospect of Independent Alliance TDs voting against the Government.

The issue of the 1981 fire at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, which killed 48 young people, resurfaced after relatives of the victims claimed new evidence had emerged.

The matter was the subject of tense and emotional exchanges at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

Dublin Bay North TD and Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath told colleagues he was prepared to quit the Government unless a resolution was reached that was satisfactory to the victims' families.

However, after lengthy talks that involved Tanaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Mr McGrath said yesterday that he would vote with the Government. "An independent legal expert will examine the new evidence and outstanding questions of the families and survivors before a commission is established," he said.

"Secondly, in partnership with the Stardust families, now we are on the road to getting the answers we have demanded."

Sisters

Antoinette Keegan, one of the survivors of the fire, said it is important that the judge is appointed without delay.

"This process must be done properly and in public. The judge must examine clearly why 48 people were unlawfully killed," said Ms Keegan, who lost two sisters in the disaster.

"This must be done in public, there can be nothing behind closed doors."

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