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Fight for justice 'Everything we can do must be done' - Taoiseach reacts to Stardust inquest funding issue

Fresh inquests in the deaths of 48 young people in the 1981 Dublin nightclub fire were due to get underway early this year but problems with funding have delayed the process.

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Suzanne Keegan, Lorraine, Antoinette and Damien at a memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of the Stardust Disco fire disaster in Dublin (Karen Morgan/PA)

Suzanne Keegan, Lorraine, Antoinette and Damien at a memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of the Stardust Disco fire disaster in Dublin (Karen Morgan/PA)

Suzanne Keegan, Lorraine, Antoinette and Damien at a memorial to mark the 40th anniversary of the Stardust Disco fire disaster in Dublin (Karen Morgan/PA)

The Taoiseach has told the Dail that he will pursue the issue of funding for the new Stardust Inquests with the Justice Minister.

Social Democrats TD for Dublin Bay North, Cian O’Callaghan, had called on the Taoiseach to ask if the Minister would meet with the families' legal representative to resolve the issue of funding so that the inquests can begin.

Fresh inquests in the deaths of 48 young people in the 1981 Dublin nightclub fire were due to get underway early this year but problems with funding have delayed the process.

The families of the victims have long campaigned for fresh inquiries into the deaths of their loved ones after they managed to have an initial verdict that arson was the probable cause of the blaze overturned.

In September 2019, the Attorney General ordered that new inquests be undertaken but the commencement has been delayed by the current legal aid issue.

Speaking the Dail today, Michael Martin said he remembered well, “the worst and most horrific event in my living memory”, as he promised to ask the Justice minister to look into the matter.

“I think you're correct in saying that everything that we can do must be done in relation to bringing closure, if at all possible, to the families of those who horrifically died in what was the worst and most horrific event in my living memory in terms of the numbers of people who died,” he told Deputy O’Callaghan.

“I remember well as a young person when it happened and the sense of horror that spread across the country and the search for justice and the search for the truth and answers.

“Funding has been made available, that’s my understanding, but it may be the precise nature of how that funding has been allocated or the basis upon which it's been allocated to the legal firms, but I will pursue this with Minister for Justice and ask the minister to respond to the deputy.”

Deputy O’Callaghan had said that 40 years ago: “48 young people went to the Stardust nightclub for a night out and never came home after a horrific fire took their lives. Their families and loved ones have waited four decades for truth and justice.”

“The delay in the commencement of the Stardust Inquest – due to the Department of Justice’s refusal to release funds – is absolutely unacceptable," he said.

"Releasing funding to allow the legal team of the families to carry out research and preparation is essential.

“The Stardust Inquest will be one of the largest ever to be conducted in the State.

"It is vital that resources are provided in advance so that the families’ legal team can carry out research and preparations. There needs to be special arrangements for large-scale inquests like this.

"We should be following the good practice established at the Hillsborough Inquest.

“I am calling on the Minister for Justice to immediately meet with the legal representative of the families to resolve the issue of funding so that the inquest can begin without more delays.”

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Jimmy Fitzpatrick hold a candle for best friend Liam Dunne who died in the Stardust tragedy

Jimmy Fitzpatrick hold a candle for best friend Liam Dunne who died in the Stardust tragedy

Jimmy Fitzpatrick hold a candle for best friend Liam Dunne who died in the Stardust tragedy

The issue was also raised in the Seanad last Friday by Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan, a long-time supporter of the Stardust families.

She said: “I would like to raise the distressing news that the delay in the Stardust inquest commencing is due to the Department of Justice and its stonewalling of the legal teams representing the families and the release of funds.

“I ask that the Leader writes to the Minister for Justice and requests that she immediately meets with the legal team representing the families to resolve the issue of funding.

Speaking at the weekend as the 40th anniversary was marked in Dublin, survivor Jimmy Fitzpatrick said that “once again, the families feel that the Department of Justice has put an obstacle in their way as they are holding up the funding to the legal team of the Stardust Victims committee.

“Despite the numerous emails and phone calls that have been made to the department’s offices they have done nothing but make excuses,” he said.

“Families deserve to be dealt with common decency and respect and we would call upon them to release this funding without further delay for the families who by now deserve a bit of dignity as they fight for justice.”

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