A solicitor representing some of those affected by the Stardust tragedy has criticised a failure to provide legal aid funding for all families taking part in new inquests into the North Dublin fire, which claimed the lives of 48 young people 40 years ago. 

Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law represents 46 families affected by the tragedy. 

Forty-eight people died and more than 200 were injured when the blaze broke out in the Stardust nightclub in Artane on St Valentine's Day 1981. 

New inquests into the deaths were ordered in 2019 by the Attorney General, who said holding fresh inquests was in the public interest and in the interest of justice. 

Mr Mackin told a preliminary hearing of Dublin Coroners Court this afternoon that current rules mean some families qualify for legal aid funding while others do not, resulting in what Mr Mackin called an unequal situation. 

Financial eligibility criteria rules mean that some families are ineligible for legal aid as a result of how much they earn or savings that they hold.Mr Mackin said the financial threshold was low, and when the inequality became apparent, he had engaged with the Legal Aid Board and asked that consideration be given to waiving the financial criteria so that all families would be considered on an equal basis. 

However, he said it has now become apparent that regulations which would allow the Legal Aid Board to apply such discretionary changes to the eligibility criteria have not been enacted by the Minister for Justice.

This, he said, has led to a "a regulations vacuum". 

Mr Mackin said it was an "extremely concerning" development and the reality was that families were now left with further delays in the legal aid process because of the lack of regulations, which "should have been made many years ago."

Mr Mackin said he would be bringing this matter to the Minister for Justice to ask that all steps are taken to bring the required regulations forward without any further delay. 

This afternoon's hearing is the third preliminary hearing before the full inquests resume at the RDS in Dublin. 

A date for that full hearing has not yet been set. 

Today's proceedings were held remotely in order to abide by Covid-19 restrictions.