Sunday 19 November 2017

Testy exchanges as ministers fail to agree on new Stardust probe

Emotional: Finian McGrath. Photo: Tom Burke
Emotional: Finian McGrath. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Ministers have for the first time failed to reach agreement on three separate Opposition proposals in a move that illustrates the fragility of the minority Government.

A Cabinet meeting ended yesterday without consensus being reached on the issues of home help, mortgages and the prospect of a commission of investigation into the Stardust nightclub tragedy.

The Stardust issue was the subject of testy exchanges as the Independent Alliance continues to stand firm behind its demand for a free vote.

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath became emotional at the meeting, with sources last night saying he would be prepared to quit the Government unless an inquiry is set up.

Mr McGrath secured full support at the meeting from his alliance colleague Shane Ross.

The issue of the 1981 fire at the Artane nightclub, which resulted in the deaths of 48 young people, has resurfaced after relatives of the victims claimed new evidence has emerged.

Government sources last night said they were opposed to a full inquiry. However, the appointment of a senior counsel to examine the new evidence has been put forward as a potential compromise.

Sources close to Mr McGrath last night said his position in Government was at stake over the issue. The nightclub was situated in his Dublin Bay North constituency.

Read more: Stardust victims' families pull cooperation with Government over failure to open new inquiry

The motion is being proposed by Mr McGrath's constituency colleague, Independents 4 Change deputy Tommy Broughan.

Government sources, meanwhile, said they were hopeful of reaching a compromise with Mr McGrath ahead of the vote tomorrow. The same sources pointed to a section of the motion that claims the Government has not engaged with families on the issue.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was understood to have strongly rejected this claim.

"There is lengthy correspondence between the department and the families over the issue," a source said.

The Stardust issue will be voted upon tomorrow along with a Sinn Féin motion on mortgages and a Fianna Fáil private members' bill which proposes to put home help on a statutory footing.

All three of the issues were discussed at Cabinet - but no position was taken. This is the first time that the Cabinet failed to reach agreement on three proposals since the formation of the minority Government.

The outcome of the three votes will depend heavily on the position taken by Fianna Fáil, which continues to prop up the minority Government.

Fianna Fáil sources say the party is determined to see its home help bill passed, particularly given the outcry following the RTÉ documentary produced by Brendan Courtney.

Irish Independent

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