State apology another milestone for Stardust families

Student accommodation and immigration policy to top Cabinet agenda

Good morning,

After more than 40 years campaigning for justice for their loved ones, the Stardust families will today get the official State apology they have fought so hard for.

Normal Dáil business, such as Leaders’ Questions, will be postponed for the apology which will be delivered by Taoiseach Simon Harris shortly after 2pm. The statements will continue until around 6pm. Families of the Stardust victims will be watching on from the visitors’ gallery above the Dáil chamber.

The relatives of the 48 young people who died in the fire in 1981 have long called for an official State apology, and they will be listening carefully to the Taoiseach’s words.


Before that, Harris will update the Cabinet about the planned apology, after an inquest jury last week returned a verdict that all of the victims were unlawfully killed.

As we report this morning, the Government will accept last week’s verdict and the recommendations of the inquest jury. Harris will ask the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and other relevant Ministers to report back on their implementation.

The Department of Taoiseach will also be tasked with preparing proposals to appropriately commemorate the disaster following a consultation with the families. Two Coalition sources said the issue of redress has not yet been fully explored, with the Government keen to keep the focus on the State apology today.

Stardust relatives and survivors met Harris over the weekend. He described the meeting with 70 people who had a connection to the tragedy as “humbling and emotional”. He had spent the preceding days studying the pen pic portraits of each of the victims to get a better understanding of who they were.

More than 90 days of evidence and testimony from 373 witnesses was heard at the inquiry, and last week’s result was momentous for the affected families. Today marks another major milestone in their long and difficult journey.

If you missed Kitty Holland’s excellent reporting on this subject last week, read her comprehensive and devastating account of what happened inside the nightclub here. Kitty also spoke to Betty Bissett (83), whose daughter Carol died in the fire, ahead of the apology, while Fintan O’Toole writes about the prejudice that lay under the State’s initial response to the fire.

Housing, immigration and economic updates to top Cabinet agenda

Newly installed Minister for Higher Education Patrick O’Donovan will make one of his first major announcements in the role today, with news that an extra 1,000 student beds will be delivered across three universities.

He will tell his Ministerial colleagues of plans to ramp up student accommodation helped by what has been described as a “windfall” from the National Development Plan worth €100 million.

Under the memo going to Cabinet, the Government will focus on adding 1,014 purpose-built student accommodation units across three universities. This includes 493 units in UCD, 405 in DCU and 116 in Maynooth University.

A third of all the new accommodation will be for students availing of Susi grants or for students from low-income families. It is understood that construction will start in DCU and Maynooth University this year, with work in UCD likely to start in early 2025.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman is also expected to bring a memo to Cabinet which would fast track plans to recognise childminders so that they can register with Tusla, and avail of existing childminding subsidies.

Childminders who are not registered with Tusla, the child and family agency, cannot be considered for the childcare scheme. There is no centralised registration system for childminders.

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath will also bring the 2024 Stability Programme Update (SPU) which will detail the state of the economy. The publication of the SPU effectively fires the starting gun on the process for Budget 2025.

An update on the Government’s Housing For All plan will also be brought by the Department of Taoiseach. It comes after Ministers were privately warned earlier this year that an extra 120,000 homes will likely be needed by 2030.

In a further attempt to tighten up immigration rules, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee will bring a memo to Cabinet that will see international protection arrivals from Nigeria subjected to an accelerated application process.

The accelerated process will apply to whichever country of origin had the highest number of arrivals into Ireland over the previous three months. Over the last three months, that country has been Nigeria. Under the accelerated process, applicants will have their cases decided upon within 90 days.

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In the Dáil, most of the day’s proceedings will be dominated by the State apology to the families and victims of the Stardust tragedy. Taoiseach Simon Harris will deliver the official apology at 2pm, with statements to continue until around 6pm. After this, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe will take questions on his brief around 6pm. Topical Issues will be discussed at 10.55pm. The Dáil will adjourn at 11.43pm.

In the Seanad, the order of business will be taken at 2pm, and then Senators will discuss the transfer of passenger data between Canada and the European Union. The Research and Innovation Bill will be debated at 3.45pm.

There’s plenty happening in the committee rooms today, too. At 10am, the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage will hold pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2024. At 11am, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action will hold a discussion with the authors of Ireland’s Climate Change Assessment report. At 3.30pm, the Joint Committee on Justice will discuss the EU’s migration pact. These sweeping proposed changes to immigration law have proven controversial across the EU, and are due to be discussed further in the Dáil next week.

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