A call has been made for the Minister for Justice to sign regulations that would clear the way for some of the families of victims of the Stardust fire to access legal aid.
An inability to access legal aid is delaying the start of the new inquests into the 48 deaths in February 1981.
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan says she has written to the Justice Minister Helen McEntee requesting that she urgently sign regulations to end barriers preventing Stardust families from accessing legal aid.
Her intervention comes following the publication yesterday of a damning report into Ireland’s coronial system and concerns that the Stardust families have been waiting for over a month for clarification from the Justice Minister about whether they are eligible for legal aid.
Speaking yesterday, Senator Boylan said:
“The publication of today’s report by Professor Phil Scraton is a damning indictment of the state’s coronial system. It exposes a system which is failing bereaved families and is simply not fit for purpose.
“Sadly, for the Stardust families this will come as no surprise. For decades they have been failed by this system and know all too well how deficient it is.
“In addition to this report, legal representatives of the families have revealed today that the Minister has ignored their pleas for clarity on eligibility for legal aid.
“This is completely unacceptable and is merely the latest in a series of acts of poor faith by this government towards grieving families.
“The Government repeatedly gave commitments to the families that there would be no barrier to accessing justice and that the costs of the inquest would be provided, yet now we have the situation where families are being means tested.
“I have raised this on numerous occasions in the Seanad. Yet the government is still failing to act.
“Today I have written to Minister McEntee urging her to sign the required regulations to ensure that the legal barriers to families receiving legal aid are removed.
“Minister Mc Entee has an opportunity to do right by the families by signing the necessary statutory instrument before she takes maternity leave. I am asking for her to do the right thing here.
“These barriers to accessing justice have brought back all the memories of how families were threatened with losing their homes if they sought justice for their loved ones. 40 years waiting for justice is too long.
“I want to commend the Stardust families for their courageous pursuit of justice. It is indefensible that this justice is still denied to them.
“The government must listen to the families and act urgently to resolve this. I will continue to push this with the Minister until the necessary steps are taken.”