The Stardust families who face the 40th anniversary of the Dublin tragedy this week have been “let down by the State once again” as its inquest is delayed.
This weekend marks 40 years since 48 young people sadly lost their lives in the fire which gutted the Stardust nightclub in Artane on Valentine’s Day 1981.
Today, it has emerged that the inquest into the fire which saw 214 further people injured has been stalled due to funding issues.
The inquest was due to begin by May, with two remote hearings postponed in December and January, but now solicitor Darragh Mackin says the Department of Justice has still failed to approve funding for barristers for the families.
Mackin is leading the Phoenix Law legal team which represents 46 families affected by the fire and says the lack of funding so far will lead to further delays.
The inquest is expected to be the largest in the history of the State.
Senator Lynn Boylan, who has continuously campaigned for the families, slammed the delay as “unbearably cruel”.
She said: “I am disgusted but unfortunately not surprised that once again the families of the Stardust fire have been let down by the State.
“Despite repeated commitments given by the Government that they would put in place the necessary resources for the largest inquest in the history of the State, it appears that the blame for the delay in the inquest proceeding lies firmly at the Government’s door.
“I understand that the legal team representing the majority of the families have tried without success to negotiate with the Department for a special arrangement to be made to handle the inquest.
“An arrangement similar to the one that was made in Britain for the Hillsborough families. Unfortunately, their requests were ignored and the inquest cannot proceed until the matter is resolved.
“The Minister for Justice must engage with the legal team immediately to resolve this issue. This weekend is the 40th anniversary of the horrific fire, each year the number of relatives are fewer, it is unbearably cruel to drag this out any longer. The families deserve answers.”
Meanwhile, Dublin City Council has carried out a rejuvenation of the Stardust memorial park in Coolock ahead of the anniversary on Sunday.
The council said that the upgrades have been made in the hope that “the immediate community and beyond will continue to enjoy the park and remember the 48 people who tragically lost their lives”.
A dedicated gardener has been assigned to the park while benches have been commissioned at the memorial to ensure that there’s a place for visitors to sit.
In a statement, they said: “Unfortunately the park has been the location for anti-social activity in recent times, so the first undertaking for the Council’s Parks, Biodiversity and Landscape Services section was to ensure park users were made feel safe.Stardust families march down Westland Row to deliver signatures calling for a fresh inquestVolume 90% STARDUST FAMILIES DELIVER PETITION TO ATTORNEY GENERAL
“This involved opening up sight lines through the park by removing dense shrubbery that was growing in the clusters of trees and removing trees that were no longer viable.
“In an effort to encourage people to spend more time in the park, a number of ‘plant interventions’ took place. The process began this time last year with the planting of thousands of bulbs throughout the park. Another intervention was the decision to turn the grass area at the sunken garden into a wildflower meadow.