Monday 21 October 2019

Stardust families travel to Council of Europe to press case for new inquest

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan hosted the meeting with Lauri Sivonen, the adviser to the Commissioner at the Council of Europe.

The Stardust Justice Campaign with Lauri Sivonen, the adviser to the Commissioner for Human Rights in the European Council (Lynn Boylan/PA)
The Stardust Justice Campaign with Lauri Sivonen, the adviser to the Commissioner for Human Rights in the European Council (Lynn Boylan/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

The Stardust justice campaign has travelled to Strasbourg to meet with the office of the Human Rights Commissioner.

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan hosted the meeting with Lauri Sivonen, the adviser to the Commissioner at the Council of Europe Dunja Mijatovic, and the families to outline their fight for a new inquest.

Forty-eight young people died when a popular nightclub in Artane, Dublin, was destroyed in a blaze on Valentine’s Day in 1981 – in what is considered the worst fire disaster in the history of the state.

The families have petitioned the Attorney General for a new inquest, citing fresh, previously unrecorded evidence.

The group plans to lodge a formal application for the fresh inquest in the next two weeks.

“Today’s meeting was very productive, and worthwhile,” Ms Boylan said.

“The solicitor for the campaign outlined the legal case for requesting a new inquest, and how the experience of the Stardust families was symptomatic of the difficulties that Irish citizens can experience in accessing justice.

“Fundamental human rights have been violated in the case of the Stardust and it was important that the families were able to detail their personal experiences in trying to access justice for the last 37 years.

“It is incredible that those who survived the fire have never given evidence on what happened that night.

“While the Council of Europe can’t make recommendations on individual cases, it is important that the case of the Stardust and the broader issues of accessing justice were brought to their attention.

“I would hope that when the Human Rights Commissioner next visits Ireland, she would consider making access to justice one of her priorities, especially applications made under Article 2, the right to life and would make recommendations to the Irish Government on reforming the system.”

Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law, Belfast, a solicitor for the families, said the case for a new inquest is indefensible.

“Today is a pivotal step forward in the Stardust families’ campaign for truth and justice,” he said.

“We raised the deficiencies and ineffectiveness of the previous investigative processes, and why there is now an indefensible case for a fresh inquest.

“The EU Commissioner on human rights was very receptive and as such we now look forward to further engagement in the coming weeks.”

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 hours later.

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

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is scheduled to meet with the families on May 29, to discuss their campaign.

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