Monday 18 December 2017

Stardust tragedy judge in quit threat

Mr Justice Patrick McCartan
Mr Justice Patrick McCartan
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The retired judge overseeing the inquiry into the Stardust nightclub tragedy has threatened to resign as he has not been provided with new evidence by the group representing victims.

Mr Justice Pat McCartan is understood to have written to The Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee seeking a copy of the report which they say provides new evidence on how the tragic fire was started.

However, the group is refusing to hand over the report until it receives €57,000 to cover research fees for committee members who compiled the new evidence. The committee told the judge it would not be handing over the report until the Department of Justice agreed to the payment.

The Sunday Independent previously revealed the group was seeking more than €400,000 from the State to cover costs associated with their campaign for those who died in the nightclub fire.

Mr Justice McCartan is understood to have grown impatient with the group and asked to see the report on a number of occasions since he was appointed to chair the inquiry in March. He met with members of the victims' committee and negotiated fees on their behalf with the department.

However, last week the retired judge wrote to committee members and told them he would step down as chair of the inquiry if he did not receive a copy of the group's report by next Friday.

Minister of State at the Department of Health, Finian McGrath, a long-time supporter of the Stardust campaign group, secured the appointment of the retired judge to examine new evidence relating to the fire after difficult negotiations with Fine Gael.

Mr McGrath is understood to be anxious to find a resolution to the dispute over fees and would like to see Justice McCartan carry out a full review of the new evidence.

The fire at the Stardust nightclub happened in the early hours of February 14, 1981. The horrific tragedy led to the deaths of 48 mostly young people who had been socialising in the venue when the fire started.

There have been two previous inquiries into the fire.

Sunday Independent

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