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Sunday 17 December 2017

'Nothing is going to happen' - Stardust survivor sceptical over fresh probe

Survivor Antoinette Keegan
Survivor Antoinette Keegan

A leading Stardust campaigner has welcomed the appointment of a retired judge to look into new evidence on the tragedy - but does not believe anything will come of it.

Antoinette Keegan (54) - a Stardust survivor who lost sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16) in the fire - said she welcomed the decision to appoint retired Judge Pat McCartan to probe new evidence, but added: "I don't think anything is going to happen."

Forty-eight young people lost their lives following the fire in the Stardust Valentine's night disco in Artane, North Dublin, in 1981. In recent weeks, relatives were informed that Judge McCartan is to be appointed to examine any and all new information regarding the disaster.

Solicitor

Mr McCartan is a former criminal defence solicitor who was a TD for the Workers Party and Democratic Left between 1987 and 1992.

He retired from the Circuit Court last year after 19 years on the bench, during which he presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the trial of former solicitor Thomas Byrne in 2013. Ms Keegan said "there is very strong new evidence" that could shed new light on what caused the fire 36 years ago.

"We have talked to experts who have offered their services for free as they believe the case is so strong," she said.

Families of the victims believe the evidence will be enough for Mr Justice McCartan to call for a commission of investigation into the fire, but are still sceptical over what will happen in the aftermath.

"It feels like we have been proving our point all the time, day in, day out fighting for the right to life that was taken from those who died that night," Ms Keegan said.

"Every time we think we are moving somewhere something comes up and stops us.

"The Government is playing games again and it's been 15 to 20 years of mind games with the families of those affected.

"This all could have been avoided if Judge Keane had looked at the case properly in the first place."

Ms Keegan said the families have been "feeling anxious" while their trust in politicians has diminished. She said the families have "consistently felt abused" by governments in their search for the truth.

Independent

Mr McCartan was appointed following consultations with family members. His appointment is set to be approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday week after an agreement between junior minister Finian McGrath and Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

Tommy Broughan TD had previously called for a commission of investigation.

However, Ms Keegan said she would not have been confident that it would have been passed in the Dail as she believed Fianna Fail would not have supported calls for the probe.

Finian McGrath TD had threatened to support Mr Broughan which led to the agreement between Ms Fitzgerald and the junior minister.

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