Failings of original Stardust tribunal show need for reforms, Tánaiste says

‘We’ve got to find better way to allow victims of tragedies to be prioritised in future inquiries,’ says Micheál Martin

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said he is in favour of overhauling the Tribunal and Commission of Investigation systems in Ireland in light of the way they failed victims of the Stardust fire tragedy.

“We’ve got to find a better way to allow the victims of tragedies, and terrible situations like this, to come more to the fore and to be prioritised in terms of any future inquiries,” he said.

“We know from other inquiries that they haven’t always managed to give solace to those for whom they were intended.”

Mr Martin said that, in addition to a formal State apology to the families of the 48 young people who perished in the inferno in February 1981 there was a need to examine the way in which the State responds to such events.


Referring to the Stardust Tribunal of Inquiry held in 1982, he said: “It was in no way satisfactory, in terms of its [findings] of arson. Although that was set aside in 2009, it caused enormous anxiety for the families of those who lost their lives.

“It was problematic on other fronts as well. [Inquiries] leave a lot to be desired in terms of their adversarial nature. They sometimes don’t allow the full trauma experienced by the families of victims to come to the fore. And I think that’s something we have to seriously reflect on as a Government,” he said.

Mr Martin was speaking in Arbour Hill at the conclusion of the Fianna Fáil annual commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising.

He said the culture and system in Ireland relating to inquiries was one where adversarial legal approaches tended to develop.

He said that when designing the inquiries to respond to institutional abuse, the then government had hoped to “create a forum for survivors to simply tell the truth and tell the story about what happened to them”.

“That didn’t materialise because of [the emergence of a] more legal framework. The law intervened, so to speak,” he said.

The Cabinet will discuss at its meeting on Tuesday morning the nature and format of the formal State apology to the relatives, survivors and victims of the Stardust Tragedy. Taoiseach Simon Harris, who met the families on Saturday, will deliver the apology in the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Martin on Sunday did not rule out additional measures including recompense.

“I think we have to do what’s right by the families,” he said.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times