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Sunday 21 October 2018

Families 'reject' Stardust report as hopes dashed

Antoinette Keegan and her mother Christine with a picture of Martina and Mary Keegan, who died in the Stardust disaster
Antoinette Keegan and her mother Christine with a picture of Martina and Mary Keegan, who died in the Stardust disaster

Relatives of those who died in the Stardust tragedy have rejected a report that found no new probe into the blaze, which killed 48 people, is warranted.

Retired judge Pat McCartan made the assessment after finding that no new evidence has emerged on what triggered the horrific fire.

He concluded that, due to the passing of time since the 1981 nightclub fire in Artane, its cause "may never be known".

While ministers acknow- ledged that families would be disappointed, the Cabinet - including local TD Finian McGrath, a super junior minister - accepted Judge McCartan's findings.

Family members of those who died reacted angrily last night as their hopes of a new probe were dashed, but they vowed to continue their campaign to see someone prosecuted for the fire.

Farce

Antoinette Keegan, whose two sisters died in the disaster, claimed the report is a "farce", adding: "We're rejecting it."

She said the families will seek legal advice on their next steps.

"If they think for one minute that this is going to knock us and we're going no further, they have another thing coming because we are not stopping," she said.

In his report, Judge McCartan acknowledged the grief and trauma experienced by those affected by the tragedy, which he said "must be compounded by the failure of anyone to explain the cause of the fire".

However, he concluded that no new inquiry is warranted.

Mr McCartan's independent assessment is the third examination of the Stardust tragedy.

The original Tribunal of Investigation was chaired by Mr Justice Ronan Keane in 1981, and in 2008 barrister Paul Coffey examined whether there was a case for reopening the inquiry.

Judge McCartan was asked by the Government to assess new evidence uncovered by the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee. This was presented in the form of a dossier.

His report states that this dossier was "rambling, argumentative, disorganised and at times incoherent".

It says that much of the material involved proposing a theory on the cause of the fire, but only new evidence would be grounds for a new inquiry.

One issue raised in the dossier could be considered new evidence - the possibility that an external eyewitness called the fire brigade at 1.43am.

This would indicate the fire was in the roof space at an earlier time than was found by the Keane report. However, Judge McCartan said this does not explain the cause of the fire, adding "at this remove it is not likely the cause of the fire can ever be established".

Dublin Bay North TD Mr McGrath said: "My only thoughts today are with the families of the victims of the terrible Stardust tragedy."

Suffered

He said he knows they will be disappointed with the outcome.

"They have suffered a huge loss and their efforts over 36 years are a testament to their loved ones," he added.

A spokesperson later said Mr McGrath accepted the report because it was carried out by an independent judge, who was selected with the approval of the families.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan acknowledged the "terrible pain and loss" of the relatives, as well as the fact that the McCartan report "does not come to the conclusion that they would have wished for".

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