Friday 16 November 2018

'I can't live with not knowing' - Woman who lost both parents in Stardust speaks out for first time

Undated family handout photo of Lisa Lawlor with her parents Maureen and Francis, who were killed in the Stardust tragedy in 1981. Photo: Family handout/PA Wire
Undated family handout photo of Lisa Lawlor with her parents Maureen and Francis, who were killed in the Stardust tragedy in 1981. Photo: Family handout/PA Wire

Aoife Moore

A woman who lost both her parents in the Stardust tragedy has given her support for a new inquest for the first time.

Lisa Lawlor, 38, who was just 17 months old when her parents died, said on Tuesday that she had not been strong enough to speak out before.

"I went through intensive counselling for years, I was afraid of what I would hear and see if I joined the campaign.

"I wasn't strong enough, I wanted to ignore it, and I can't ignore it anymore.

"We need closure, I can't live with not knowing."

Forty eight people were killed and 200 were injured on Valentine's Day 1981, in the Stardust nightclub in the Artane area of Dublin.

Members of the Stardust Justice Campaign, including Lisa Lawlor (second left) and Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan (second right) at a press conference in Dublin. Photo: Aoife Moore/PA Wire
Members of the Stardust Justice Campaign, including Lisa Lawlor (second left) and Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan (second right) at a press conference in Dublin. Photo: Aoife Moore/PA Wire

A tribunal held in the year following the fire, chaired by Justice Ronan Keane, was labelled flawed and the conclusion was contested by the victims' families.

He concluded the cause of the fire was probably arson.

In 2009, an independent examination into the tribunal reported there was no evidence to support Justice Keane's finding that the fire was started deliberately near the ballroom of the nightclub.

Families have campaigned for a fresh inquiry ever since the report, the latest rejection came late in 2017.

Now the families have launched a fresh postcard campaign appealing to the Attorney General Seamus Woulfe SC for a new inquiry.

Antoinette Keegan, who lost two sisters in the fire, slammed the Government's inaction.

"We have huge political support across the board, except from Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

"The state have an obligation for a criminal investigation, in 37 years the victims have become insignificant.

"Finian McGrath refused to sign the postcard, he was elected saying he would support the campaign.

"We asked him for help and he's not giving it, he's not pushing it as far as he should be.

"We're a nuisance to this Government. They want us to go away.

"Leo Varadkar and Charlie Flanagan can get this inquest reopened and we won't be stopping until it is."

Mr McGrath rejects the claims.

"That is a complete distortion of my position on the Stardust Fire Tragedy.

"I met the families recently and said I would raise their concerns with the Attorney General and the Government."

The postcard campaign hopes to see 48,000 postcards signed in support of the new inquest, 1,000 for each victim.

When they reach their target, they will be handed to the Attorney General.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin said the first step in the process is finding out the truth, then holding those responsible to account.

Mr Mackin said: "Families can't get accountability, the first step is truth, the second is accountability.

"The Attorney General has been put on notice that the application for a new inquest will be made.

"Whether to have a fresh inquest is entirely at his discretion.

"There has never been an effective investigation, and given the number of people involved, we say a new inquest is in the public interest."

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have been contacted for comment.

The Department of Justice said: "The minister (Mr Flanagan) has no role in the ordering of a second inquest under this provision and it would not be appropriate for him to make any comment in regard to the application to the Attorney General, nor to try to influence the decision of the Attorney General."

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