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Fresh Stardust inquest draws on comparisons to Hillsborough horror

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Aftermath of Stardust disaster

Aftermath of Stardust disaster

PA

Aftermath of Stardust disaster

The Attorney General has said his decision to open a new inquest into the worst fatal fire in Ireland's history "drew on analogies of the Hillsborough disaster".

The fresh probe into the blaze at the Stardust nightclub in Artane on Valentine's Day, 1981, in which 48 young people died, was granted by Seamus Woulfe in September after a campaign by families and survivors.

He wrote to the solicitor for the families, Darragh Mackin, detailing the reasons for his decision.

The letter details the background to the tragedy, and the initial inquests that were held - hearings the families have rejected as "unsatisfactory".

Officials originally ruled the cause of the fire was arson, a theory that was never accepted by relatives, who said it tarnished the reputations of those who died.

The Stardust families felt this directly mirrored England's Hillsborough disaster in April 1989, in which 96 people died as a result of a crush at the FA Cup match between Liver- pool and Nottingham Forest, which was wrongly blamed on the fans.

The arson ruling was later discounted following an inquiry in 2009.

"After careful consideration, I decided to exercise my discretion in favour of directing that further inquests be held," Mr Woulfe wrote. "I consider this to be in the public interest and in the interest of justice.

"Drawing on analogies from the Hillsborough case in England, my view is that, where there is a disaster of such magnitude as that which occurred at the Stardust, there is, in the first place, the entitlement of the families of the victims to the public revelation of the facts.

"There is also a distinct and separate imperative that the community as a whole should be satisfied, even if belatedly, that there should be sufficient inquiry at any inquest held to maximise the chances that the truth should emerge."

Mr Woulfe went on to state that he has some concerns that any inquest may not be able to ascertain how the fire started.

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Hillsborough disaster

Hillsborough disaster

Hillsborough disaster

Chains

Inquiries into the disaster showed a number of escape routes were blocked because emergency doors were locked by chains.

Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire but lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16), said the families finally believe they are being listened to.

"For him to make that statement like that, to say it's Ireland's Hillsborough, we thought that it was fantastic and a clear reference to the way we've been treated over the years," she said.

It is hoped the inquest will begin in early spring.