An independent assessment is to be carried out into evidence uncovered by relatives of the Stardust tragedy to see whether a commission of investigation should be established.

48 people died in the nightclub fire on Valentine's Day in 1981.

The Dáil tonight began debating a motion on the matter tabled by Independents4Change TD Tommy Broughan calling for a commission of investigation.

Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance earlier reached an agreement on the wording of a counter motion.

It calls on the Government to meet the victims’ families regarding possible new evidence into the fire in the Artane night club.

The motion calls for this evidence to be assessed by an independent person who has the trust of the families.

If the independent assessment confirms the existence of new evidence, the motion calls on the Government to immediately establish a commission of investigation.

Independent Alliance Minister of State Finian McGrath, in whose constituency the tragedy took place on 14 February 1981, has long campaigned on the issue and wanted a free vote on the matter.

At a press briefing this evening, Mr McGrath said they will be looking for a judge, with a strong criminal justice background, to assess the evidence.

On the possibility of the assessment not finding new evidence to justify a commission of investigation, he said that all sides have to trust the independent assessment.

The decision will have to be respected, he added.

Mr McGrath, who met with the victims' families again today, said he was not sure if there was total unity on the motion among the families but he said they were fairly satisfied over the last 24 hours. 

As the families have accepted the Government motion, Fianna Fáil said it would support it if there is a vote.

Mr Broughan said, however, that the Government's planned review seemed to be another exercise in procrastination.

Mr Broughan told the Dáil this evening the tragedy continues to profoundly affect the area 36 years on.

He said that the fire spread rapidly, possibly due to flammable liquids stored in the roof space.

He said 44 families lost daughters and sons and justice had never been served for them.

He then listed the 48 names of those who lost their lives.

Mr Broughan criticised the conclusion of Justice Keane in 1982 that arson was the probable cause of the fire, which he said was most upsetting and shocking.

He said the owner, Eamon Butterly, was awarded £585,000 while the victims were awarded just £7,500.

Mr Broughan said the Keane Report rightly pointed to failures under fire regulations, and failures on the part of Dublin Corporation.

He said an investigation which formed part of a book 'They Never Came Home', undermined the conclusions of Judge Keane's findings.

Mr Broughan noted the Government was coming forward with an amendment that an eminent legal person review the new evidence, but he said Justice Coffey had already done this in 2009.

Replying, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said the Government will establish a commission of investigation if new evidence is identified. 

She said an independent person would be appointed to urgently assess the question of whether new evidence can be identified and said "the Government will act on those findings".

She added: "As stated in the Programme for Government, full regard will be had for any new evidence which emerges which would be likely to establish the cause of the fire at Stardust.

"If the independent assessment confirms the existence of new evidence a commission of investigation will be established and the Government will proceed on the basis of the motion outlined tonight.

"I strongly believe that this is the appropriate way forward. It is right that the tragedy is not forgotten and that we consider any measure that may address the terrible legacy of the Stardust fire." 

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that it is the job of the State and not the families to investigate the cause of the Stardust fire.

She described the Government's proposal to appoint an independent person to assess new evidence put forward by the families and survivors as "perverse".

Labour's Brendan Ryan said his party would be supporting the motion to establish a public inquiry into the stardust tragedy, and opposing the Government's amendment.

He said the Government, with the support of Fianna Fáil were resolving to "kick the can down the road".

People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett called on Ms Fitzgerald to correct the record of the Dáil when the Taoiseach said he had not seen the new evidence.

Mr Boyd Barrett said: "I handed the file with the evidence to Minister Fitzgerald on the last day of the Dáil last year."

Govt 'committed' to commission of investigation if new evidence found

Minister McGrath told the Dáil that survivors and their families require total support.

He said the issue of the locking of the doors was absolutely criminal and that an independent legal expert will examine the new evidence before a new commission is established.

He also said a commission would be led by a judge.

The minister said the Governments amendment notes that families have never received full and complete answers about what happened.

He said the victims committee had continued to liaise with the Government about their misgivings.

He said the families would be directly involved in the selection process around the independent person who will examine the new evidence. He said the government is committed to a commission of investigation if new evidence if found.

Concluding the debate, Mr Broughan said he was disappointed with the response from Fianna Fáil, and most disappointed in the response from the Government and Mr McGrath.

He said there was a "huge range of unanswered questions" and "un-assessed evidence".

He said Mr McGrath mentioned that a price cannot be put on the lives of the 48 but that the cost of a commission was continually being raised. He said the cost to his constituency and to Coolock had been horrific.

The interior of the Stardust nightclub after the fire in 1981

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that if new evidence about the cause of fire at the nightclub shows there should be a commission of investigation, then there "should be one."

Mr Kenny was responding to questions from Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil.

"I don't know the new evidence. I am quite willing to have a new investigation but that evidence has to be looked at," Mr Kenny said.

"If that evidence shows that there should be a Commission of Investigation then there should be one."

Mr Adams responded: "You said there's a willingness for there to be a commission of investigation. Just say Taoiseach you will authorise a commission of investigation."

Stardust survivor calls for investigation into 'cover up'

Stardust Survivor Antoinette Keegan has said it is very important that a commission of investigation takes place into the tragedy because "the whole thing has been a cover up" for almost 36 years.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, she said that without truth there is no closure and without closure, no one can move on.

Ms Keegan said the Stardust Relatives and Victims Committee has given the Department of Justice all the evidence it has.

She added that, at a meeting on 18 July 2014, after being presented with evidence the minister for justice asked: "I can see there is something wrong here, how can be we assured that if we do this again, it's going to be right?" 

She added that there would be negotiations all day until the committee got what it wanted on the table.

"When you don't get truth, you don't get closure, you don't get justice and it should all come as one.

"There's going to be negotiations all day 'till what we really want is going to be on the table ... we're not looking for something big, we're not looking for the taxpayers to pay for anything. All we want is the truth on public record and if that is so hard to do, I don't know what we're going to do."

Ms Keegan said she remembers the night as if it were yesterday, and that survivors and their families did not receive any counselling in 1981. 

She added that her parents did not immediately tell her that her sisters, Mary and Martina, had died and she did not find out until two-and-a-half weeks after the fire, when she was told by a priest.