Saturday 22 October 2016

Taoiseach's department avoiding Stardust blaze compo 'not surprising'

Antoinette Keegan says she is not surprised by the news
Antoinette Keegan says she is not surprised by the news

A woman who lost two sisters in the Stardust tragedy has reacted with anger at news that the Department of the Taoiseach in 1985 sought to distance itself from compensation claims for victims over fears it would be a controversial process.

As revealed in State Papers which are released under the 30-year-rule, a government memo was sent from officials in Garret FitzGerald's office that year warning that decisions on payments should be kept "as far as possible" from his desk.

A total of 48 people died in the 1981 Valentine's Day fire at the nightclub in Artane and hundreds more were injured with about 300 making claims against the State.

The average payment made under a compensation scheme was IR£12,700.

But the it was revealed that the Taoiseach's Office wanted to distance itself from details on compensation payments which has reinforced the anger felt by relatives of the victims over not being able to get justice for their brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters.

"The news that the Taoiseach's department was avoiding the issue of compensation is not surprising," said Antoinette Keegan.

"Instead of being able to go to a court of law to sue the owners or the State we were given a Tribunal of Inquiry with no legal standing to prosecute anyone."

Ms Keegan claimed the inquiry did not consider a 999 call that was made at 1.43am by a neighbour 220 metres away who saw a fire in the roofspace.


The tribunal found the fire was started by probable arson, something, which was later questioned by a review of the evidence in the Coffey report.

"That outcome was challenged in the courts because we always believed, and still do, that the fire was caused by negligence. We never got justice," Antoinette explained.

"We want an acknowledgement that the rights of the victims of the Stardust fire have been ignored for the past 30 years. We haven't got that from successive Irish governments and now we plan to present a file to the Minister for Justice later this month."

They say an incorrect floor plan given to the original inquiry, the position and structure of a storeroom that contained flammable cooking oil, the condition of the electrics and the evidence of external witnesses all point to an electrical fire, fuelled by flammable materials which sent flames racing through the roof space, was the chain of events on the night.

In the document, released from the Department of the Taoiseach to the National Archives, an unnamed official set out concerns.

"Essentially, I think that the whole issue, which will involve a lot of detailed work, and could be highly controversial, should be kept as far from this department as possible," they wrote.

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