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Saturday 24 February 2018

Taoiseach told not to grant legal aid to Cherryville crash crews

The aftermath of the Cherryville rail crash. Photo: RTE
The aftermath of the Cherryville rail crash. Photo: RTE
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE government was advised not to grant free legal aid to the Cherryville disaster train crews at a special inquiry into the accident in which seven people died.

In a confidential briefing note to Taoiseach Dr Garret Fitzgerald, the attorney general advised that there was no legal or Constitutional obligation to do so.

The advice, dated October 3, 1983, came despite a determined campaign by the ITGWU to get legal costs covered by the state.

The accident occurred at Cherryville Junction in Kildare on August 21, 1983.

Two trains packed with commuters collided. Seven people were killed and more than 50 seriously injured.

It subsequently transpired that a Dublin-bound train had become stranded on an isolated stretch of track after its replacement locomotive ran out of fuel.

Due to a combination of signalling problems and difficulties with a communication system, an oncoming train was unaware of the breakdown and ploughed into the stranded train.

In advice to the Taoiseach, a Department of Transport official wrote on October 3 that it would be "imprudent" to grant the union's request for train crews' costs to be fully covered at the inquiry.

However, ITGWU branch secretary George Sheehan raised the issue of costs with the Taoiseach immediately after the Department of Transport refused to sanction them.

The ITGWU official said he was "surprised" at the Taoiseach's refusal to review the departmental decision in light of the serious issues at stake.

Irish Independent

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