Victims of Ireland’s worst fire tragedy ask for new inquest

Campaigners for victims in Ireland’s worst ever fire have lodged an appeal for a fresh inquest.

The Stardust Campaign group has petitioned for a new inquest into the fire with Ireland’s Attorney General, 38 years after their tragedy.

Forty eight people lost their lives in the fire at the popular Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin at a Valentine’s Day disco.

Campaigners say fresh evidence and new witness statements about the night of the fire provide enough assurance that a new inquest should be opened.

Only one emergency phone call is on public record from the night of the fire, but campaigners say they now have a signed statement from a woman who claims she made a second call about a fire on the roof of the nightclub.

The group also says it has evidence that the Electrical Supply Board had written to the owners of the Stardust about faulty electrical wiring before the fire occurred, all of which, it says, is crucial to the timing and cause of the fire.

Officials originally ruled that the cause of the fire was arson, a theory that was never accepted by the families.

Despite findings of safety breaches, there were no prosecutions over the incident.

Investigations into the fire showed that a number of escape routes from the dance hall were blocked as emergency doors were locked by chains, concerns have also been raised about the investigation of the scene, which allowed politicians and media to walk through the building just days after the fire.

Darragh Mackin, from Phoenix Law, and a solicitor for the families, says it has consulted experts from those involved with the Grenfell fire in London, and the 9/11 terror attacks.

“The threshold for a fresh inquest is relatively modest, it is whether or not the Attorney General feels it is advisable, we say that is clear by the evidence presented to him today that the test is met,” he said.

“In the opinion of the experts, a fresh inquest is advisable and can get to the bottom of what happened in the Stardust.

“This is Ireland’s greatest atrocity, and the truth is the very least these families deserve.”

Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire but lost her sisters Mary and Martina in the blaze, says the families have never felt so confident.

“We want truth and we want justice, it’s not fair on the parents of their loved ones, Mrs (Bridget) McDermott is not well, my mother is 83, it’s not fair how long this has continued.

“It’s systematic abuse that the government has thrown at the families and it’s time now it stops and we get the truth and justice we’re entitled to.”

Mrs McDermott lost three children in the tragedy.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar is due to meet the group on May 29, and previously said he would discuss the matter with the Attorney General after the petition had been submitted.

“Successive governments have failed, the Taoiseach has a responsibility, he has promised it so he has to fulfil it.”

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan has taken up the cause with the families, and says that it is unacceptable that the families had to find the new evidence themselves, with no legal aid.

A 2017 report by retired judge Pat McCartan found it was evident the fire was in the roof space, not a seat as previously stated, and that there were witnesses who had not been interviewed.

“The McCartan report acknowledged there were witnesses out there but bizarrely wasn’t going to find or question those witnesses,” she said.

“So we have a report that says there are witnesses out there with evidence that would counter what previous inquests have found, but we’re not going to go and find them and it’s up to the families to go find that evidence.”

The campaign group says it is unknown how long the Attorney General will take in making a decision but they are hopeful that a judgment can be made before the end of the summer.