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16 February 2006 Edition

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Renewed call for Stardust enquiry

BY Aran Foley

48 Doves are released at the Stardust Memorial after the 25th Anniversary Mass, Coolock, Dublin, in memory of all those killed and injured in the tragedy

Stardust - no justice after 25 years

Relatives of the Stardust victims have renewed their calls for a second public enquiry on the 25th anniversary of the devastating fire which killed 48 people at Artane in Dublin.

Brid McDermott, who lost three children in the 1981 blaze at the Stardust disco, speaking at a ceremony on Sunday to mark the anniversary said: "We want a new enquiry now because we know things that weren't known then. She rejected a recent apology by the owner of the club Eamon Butterly as "too little too late. I think he's saying this now because we are stepping up pressure for an other enquiry," she said.

Other relatives were particularly incensed by Butterly's planning application to reopen the Silver Swan pub next door to the Stardust - in which many of the victims patrons had also been on the night - on the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.

Butterly who received £580,00 punts in compensation because the Tribunal ruled it probable arson, with no evidence to support that conclusion and despite severe fire violations at the club, was criticised by the Stardust Tribunal as having acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of his customers. Despite this the DPP ruled there was insufficient grounds to take action against him. He was a friend of then Taoiseach Charles Haughey and many people regard the fire and it's outcome as possibly the greatest scandal of the Haughey era. The fire violations such as blocked exits and grilled windows were put in place deliberately in order to prevent people from entering without paying and hindered their ability to escape the inferno.

The Stardust tragedy devastated northside working-class communities. The city's emergency services were stretched to breaking point and the army had to set up a makeshift hospital at the site in Kylmore Road, Artane after the city's casualty units were filled to capacity.

Stardust survivor Sharon O'Hanlon said this week of the inquiry: "It was an insult to our intelligence and our parents intelligence. We were just told to go home and forget about it. Another survivor Catherine Darling said: "The families around here that lost their sons and daughters - what must be going through Surely after 25 years they deserve closure."

Speaking on Sunday following an anniversary Mass in Bonnybrook Church and a ceremony in the Stardust park in Coolock, Sinn Féin Councillor larry O'Toole supported the call of relatives for a further public inquiry. He said that after 25 years the families of the Stardust victims were still seeking justice. O'Toole heavily criticised the decision to re-open the Silver Swan pub under its original name on the anniversary of the Stardust tragedy as "highly insensitive". Councillor O'Toole attended a protest vigil outside the Silver Swan as it re-opened on Tuesday 14 February.

On the same day, Sinn Féin's Dáil leader Caoimhghín O Caoláin raised the Stardust issue in the Dáil and urged the Taoiseach to back a new investigation into the tragedy.

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