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Nightclub tragedy Ruling on scope of inquest into 48 deaths in Stardust fire expected within weeks

Mr O'Higgins said the families hoped the finding of facts in an inquest would help to alleviate "rumours and suspicion" which had floated around for 40 years.

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Lorriane Keegan, Cousin Pauline Braymer and Antoinette Keegan holding photos of Martina Keegan (16)and Mary Keegan (19) who died in the Stardust Fire arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning.

Lorriane Keegan, Cousin Pauline Braymer and Antoinette Keegan holding photos of Martina Keegan (16)and Mary Keegan (19) who died in the Stardust Fire arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning.

Lorriane Keegan, Cousin Pauline Braymer and Antoinette Keegan holding photos of Martina Keegan (16)and Mary Keegan (19) who died in the Stardust Fire arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning.

A ruling on the scope of an inquest into the deaths of 48 people in the Stardust fire is expected in the coming weeks.

The fifth pre-inquest hearing into the Stardust fire took place this morning, with members of the victims' families attending both in the RDS and remotely via Zoom.

The fire at the Stardust nightclub in Artane in Dublin took place in the early hours of February 14, 1981. 48 people lost their lives whilst several hundred more were injured.

This morning, Dublin District Senior Coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, said it appeared the parties were "quite close" in terms of the scope of the inquest.

Dr Cullinane said it was clear the parties, which includes An Garda Siochana and Dublin City Council, wished to assist the coroner and assist the families "in those facts we can establish".

The pre-inquest was due to run over three days, but was adjourned shortly before lunch today, to allow Dr Cullinane to consider a ruling on the scope of the inquest.

Dr Cullinane said she would share the ruling in electronic format as soon as was practicable. She said it would remain a provisional ruling, and may need to be re-visited during the inquest proper.

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Gertude Barrett with Carol Barrett and holding a picture of her son Michael 17 who was the DJ and died at the Stardust Fire arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning.

Gertude Barrett with Carol Barrett and holding a picture of her son Michael 17 who was the DJ and died at the Stardust Fire arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning.

Gertude Barrett with Carol Barrett and holding a picture of her son Michael 17 who was the DJ and died at the Stardust Fire arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for the families, said the purpose of any line of enquiry in the inquest was not for the purpose of condemning anyone, nor was it to exonerate anyone.

Rather the purpose of any enquiry is "simply to establish the facts", he said.

He said the families hoped the finding of facts in an inquest would help to alleviate "rumours and suspicion" which had floated around for 40 years.

Mr O'Higgins outlined 11 issues - the so-called Annex A - which the families have identified as questions which the inquest needs to address.

This includes where and why the fire started, how and why the fire progressed, the circumstances leading up the fire, the medical causes of each death and the governance and regulations which pertained at the time.

He said he believed these questions were "modest and realistic".

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Seamus O Tuathail SC, on behalf of the family of 17-year-old Marie Kennedy who tragically died in the fire, said he "entirely agreed" with Mr O'Higgins submissions.

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 Victims family members Phyllis and Maurice McHugh, Lorraine Keegan, Antoinette Keegan, Pauline Braymer, Gertrude Barrett ,Carrol Barrett ,Terry Jones, Pat Dunne, Samantha Mangan arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning .

Victims family members Phyllis and Maurice McHugh, Lorraine Keegan, Antoinette Keegan, Pauline Braymer, Gertrude Barrett ,Carrol Barrett ,Terry Jones, Pat Dunne, Samantha Mangan arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning .

Victims family members Phyllis and Maurice McHugh, Lorraine Keegan, Antoinette Keegan, Pauline Braymer, Gertrude Barrett ,Carrol Barrett ,Terry Jones, Pat Dunne, Samantha Mangan arriving for the fifth pre-inquest hearing at the RDS in Dublin this morning .

He said Annex A expanded on Dr Cullinane's letter from November 2020, which stated her preliminary view of the purpose of an inquest was to look into the origin and spread of the fire, the circumstances that prevailed within the ballroom following the outbreak of the fire and the response, both within the ballroom and that of the emergency services.

Shane Murphy SC, for An Garda Siochana, welcomed Annex A as a potential "outline" of the inquest's scope.

Mr Murphy said the focus of the inquest should be on matters proximate to the time of the fire, namely the events leading up to the fire, giving rise to the fire and the causation of death.

Paul O'Higgins SC, for Eamon Butterly, the owner of the Stardust nightclub, said these matters could only be considered as they arise in the context of an inquest.

He welcomed a proposal by Mr Michael O'Higgins, on behalf of the families, to document any uncontroversial facts, which all parties can agree on, in advance of the inquest.

Mr O'Higgins said he believed it would take four to six weeks to produce this document.

Fresh inquests into the deaths of those who died in the Stardust fire of 1981 were first ordered in September 2019, following a sustained campaign by families who lost loved ones in the tragedy.


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