By Dominic McGrath, PA
The Taoiseach has committed to ensuring that the long-awaited Stardust inquest can take place as soon as possible, amid concerns about further delays.
Forty-eight people died in the Stardust nightclub fire in Dublin on February 14th, 1981.
A new Bill is being brought forward in the Seanad to ensure that the inquest is held before a jury, with it selected in the same way as in a criminal case.
Campaigners say that the Government also needs to ensure that jurors can be paid during the inquest, which is expected to last for several months.
The Bill is being proposed by Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan and on Wednesday in the Dáil, her party leader Mary Lou McDonald raised the matter with Taoiseach Micheal Martin.
She said: “The Government has given a commitment that the Stardust inquest will be human rights compliant, so to deliver on this commitment the matters relating to juries in terms of selection and income protection need to be urgently addressed.
“Most people are unaware of just how opaque jury selection for an inquest really is and how ad hoc it is.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett also backed the call, telling the Taoiseach: “The only reason we have an inquest is because these families have never given up in their quest for truth and justice about the deaths of their loved ones.”
In response, Mr Martin said he had met recently with the families of the people who died in the blaze.
He said he had spoken to Justice Minister Helen McEntee about the issue, as well as the Attorney General.
“I’ve asked them to see if can they come up with an exceptional provision there or some approach to deal with the Stardust inquiry to make sure that jurors can be empanelled for the duration of the inquest,” the Taoiseach said.
He gave no indication of how long it would take to solve the issue, but promised to update the Dáil on progress.
“Given that we’ve come this far I think it’s important that we would give as much closure as we possibly can, notwithstanding limitations to the coroner’s inquest,” Mr Martin said.
“I think it’s important to bring this to completion, to a satisfactory completion.”
Families have bemoaned the fact that this is the latest obstacle put in the way of an inquest.
On Tuesday, they received the backing of nearly 30 figures from the world of law, including former justice minister Michael McDowell.
The letter, sent to Ms McEntee on Tuesday, said: “The Stardust Inquest will be the largest inquest in the history of the State and will be watched around the world. The bare minimum that should be expected is that the evidence is heard by a jury that is selected in a manner that is transparent and representative of wider society.”