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Establishment of Commission of Investigation into the Stardust Tragedy: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 936 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey] I have worked with the victims' committee on a number of issues, including certain planning applications regarding the Stardust site and the provision of a suitable memorial. The Stardust Memorial Park is now part of the community in Bonnybrook. In addition, a lot of work was done on identifying the remains of five previously unidentified victims.

  I am aware of a new demand for a commission of inquiry to establish the cause of the fire. According to a report in The Irish Times on 24 January 2017, the committee believes significant new evidence has emerged in recent years. I understand that this has been uncovered by the researcher for the families, Geraldine Foy. The issue seems to relate to the location of the fire when it first broke out. There is a dispute about whether it broke out in the seating area or the roof space. I have not seen this new evidence, but if there is new evidence it must be investigated.

  I have noted the Government amendment to the motion and I am in agreement with it. I support the Government amendment but as other speakers have said, I sincerely hope this process will be a speedy one. I hope it will be finalised as soon as possible and that the families involved finally receive justice and some sort of closure. I note what Deputy O'Sullivan said about the word "closure". Perhaps that is not possible, but as national legislators we should certainly do everything to ensure that the families can move on from this as best they can. I echo the words of my colleague, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan that this cannot be dragged out. We need to get to the bottom of it if we can. We should certainly do everything we can in this regard. I hope this debate will set the process moving speedily, so that we can bring some sort of finality to this long-standing issue.

Deputy Denise Mitchell: Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell I want to start by welcoming the families to the Visitors Gallery on this difficult evening. I know how hard it must be for them. Not far from here on the northside of Dublin, 48 young people lost their lives in the Stardust fire. They were young people, with an average age of 19 years, who never came home. We also remember the hundreds of others who were injured in the fire. Words cannot fully describe the enormity of pain involved in the deaths of 48 young people on St. Valentine's night, including the pain their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters have been feeling since then. Words cannot do justice to the families. Only the truth can do them justice.

Families, survivors and the community need to find the answers to this horrific tragedy. Correcting any possible injustice should be the obvious action by any Government. In this respect it should be pursued to the end.

The journey the families have had to go through began on that awful night in 1981 and it continues to this very day, from the flawed Keane report in 1982 - we all know that report added much more pain for the families - to the Coffey review of 2009, which contained an unpublished recommendation for a new inquiry. The Minister and her Government have the power to take action and help to discover the truth by creating a commission of investigation.

The State claims that it needs new evidence. The families have given the Department of Justice and Equality new evidence which should be used in a commission of investigation. Will the Minister and her Government help the families to find the truth? They should not delay justice any longer with the Government amendment. It is almost 36 years since the tragedy and it has been a long time for families who are seeking the truth. Action needs to be taken for those who died long before their time, as well as for the injured and their families. This Government needs to pursue a commission of investigation to find the truth for them. The Minister should not prolong their pain any longer. She must act now.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe We should all declare an interest in this matter. My first recollection was as a young person living in Dublin and hearing the news of this tragedy on the radio. I was a Sinn Féin youth spokesperson at the time. I remember putting out a statement expressing my condolences to the families involved. It is a long time ago. Deputy O'Callaghan said it changed the fire regulations. However, I remember visiting a nightclub in Galway with a group of friends a couple of years later. After about ten minutes we all had this uncomfortable feeling and left. The reason we left was that we noticed there were chains on the fire doors, yet this was a number of years after the Stardust tragedy.

Those young people went out to enjoy themselves, but many of them did not come home. Many others were scarred for life. I remember meeting some of them over the years, including the campaigners who tirelessly tried to get politicians to raise the matter. The Minister says it is regrettable that we do not have a consensus. I cannot speak on behalf of the families and do not know how they feel about the Government's amendment. There was a consensus up to tonight on this matter. There was general agreement that the way forward was a commission of investigation. I am saddened that people blinked and, for whatever reasons, took a decision to go down that path. I hope it works out for the families because they are all getting older and more tired, yet they all want answers.

A constituent, Mark Frazer, said today that the one question that is forever discussed within his family is why no one was ever prosecuted over the chained and blocked fire exit. I do not have the answers to that, but I know who was guilty. It was not the young people who went to the dance that night. I have made my views well known over the years. I know who was behind this tragedy - it was the people who put the locks, bolts and chains on the door. They are responsible for what happened to those young people.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I acknowledge the presence of the families who are here in the Visitors Gallery and commend their work. I also commend our colleague, Deputy Broughan, for bringing this motion forward. It is straightforward in seeking a commission of investigation.

No parent expects to bury a child. It goes against the natural order of things, yet these families faced that reality and have lived with it since that awful event. I am really disappointed that we are re-running a well-run tape. The political system is telling the families that it will support them and will support their quest for truth, yet at the same time the latest barrier is thrown up to stall that quest. Why?

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