Stardust funding row to be resolved in coming days

A pre-inquest hearing was told that, while the issue is not entirely finalised, an agreement is expected soon
Stardust funding row to be resolved in coming days

By Cate McCurry, PA

A funding row between the families of the Stardust fire victims and the Department of Justice is expected to be resolved in the coming days, a preliminary inquest hearing has been told.

Solicitors for 47 of the families said they are in a position to agree to a scheme of fees which will result in savings for the Legal Aid Board of around 37 per cent and possibly more than 52 per cent.

The pre-inquest hearing was told that, while the issue is not entirely finalised, an agreement is expected soon.

The hearing took place at the Dublin District Coroner’s Court, sitting at the RDS in Dublin, ahead of the full inquest scheduled for next March.

Stardust nightclub fire
Police stand outside the main entrance of a fire-blackened Stardust Disco in Artane, Dublin, where in the early hours 48 youngsters perished in a fire (Archive/PA)

A funding dispute over legal costs erupted after the Legal Aid Board did not pay Phoenix Law, who is representing 47 of the families.

A fresh inquest into the tragedy, in which 48 people died, is being held after former attorney general Seamus Woulfe ruled that one should be held in the public interest.

More than 800 people attended the disco at the popular venue in north Dublin and despite two inquiries into the disaster, nobody has ever been held responsible.

The inquest proceedings has been beset by delays following an earlier funding row when the Legal Aid Board claimed some of the families’ incomes breached the threshold for legal aid.

Senior Dublin coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, said she was advised that funding matters had been resolved and that she had “hoped” matters had progressed.

“I am told matters had not proceeded to the point where it is settled,” Dr Cullinane said on Wednesday.

Stardust nightclub fire inquest
Maurice and Phyllis McHugh hold a photograph of their daughter Caroline who was 17 when she died, outside the coroner’s court at the RDS, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

A legal representative told the court that extensive discussions took place between Phoenix Law and the Department of Justice, but that this had not been relayed to the Legal Aid Board.

Sean Guerin SC, who represents the majority of families, said: “We are at the point where lawyers of Phoenix Law are in position to agree, in essence, to a scheme of fees which will result in savings to the Legal Aid Board of 37 per cent and possibly more than 52 per cent.

“It is not entirely finalised, but hopefully it will be and the process of seeking justice will not be delayed any longer.

“We are awaiting the final confirmation from the Legal Aid Board and will be in a position to confirm the agreement in a matter of days.”

Stardust nightclub fire inquest
Family members of some of the victims of the Stardust disaster outside the coroner’s court at the RDS, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Cullinane also said she hoped that families could present “pen portraits” of the families’ loved ones in the RDS.

A “pen portrait” allows family members to describe their loved one to help humanise the inquest.

Dr Cullinane said that the “pen portraits” could be given in February ahead of the full inquest.

The next pre-inquest hearing has been set for November 4th.

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