THE HIGH Court has rejected the challenge by the former manager of Stardust nightclub to have unlawful killing excluded as an option for jurors in an upcoming inquest into a fire which claimed the lives of 48 people in 1981.
Eamon Butterly, whose family owned the Artane nightclub in Dublin, launched proceedings to have the verdict ruled out, however the court ruled today that the verdict will be open to the jury.
He had claimed that the new inquest into the incident could wrongly make him a target for a verdict of unlawful killing.
The exclusion of the verdict was the subject of a previous pre-inquest hearing in February, where it was also ruled out.
Mr Butterly indicated that he would challenge the constitutionality of the forthcoming inquests unless unlawful killing was ruled out as a potential verdict.
Other findings that can be concluded by the inquest include misadventure and accidental death.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan found a verdict of unlawful killing was permitted where no person was identified or identifiable as being responsible for the killing.
He said it may be that the more detailed the evidence is on the circumstances of the death, the less permissible a verdict of unlawful killing will be.
On Valentine's Day 1981, a fire broke out in the nightclub, claiming the lives of 48 people. Over 200 people were also injured.
The decision was welcomed by Phoenix Law, which represents the families of 47 of the 48 Stardust victims.
"The families we act for are relieved with today's news and are hopeful that the Stardust Fire Inquests can now proceed as planned," said Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law.
"The significance of a potential verdict of unlawful killing cannot be overstated for these families.
"They have from the outset maintained that such a verdict ought to be considered by a jury.
"Today’s decision not to exclude such a verdict, is of a massive importance.
"To have the backing of the High Court that these inquests should proceed with a full and fair investigation and for all verdicts to be on the table, as is normally the case, is a meaningful endorsement of the families’ pursuit of truth and justice in the Stardust fire Inquests."
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan welcomed the ruling that unlawful killing will be available to the jury.
"The families of those who lost their lives in the Stardust Fire have waited four decades for answers.
"The decision taken by the High Court today to leave the verdict of 'Unlawful Killing' available to the jury is very welcome.
"There have been a number of legal obstacles since the Attorney General, Seamus Wolfe, granted a fresh inquest into the fire, including access to legal aid and the selection of the jurors.
"Today's High Court Ruling should pave the way for the Inquest to proceed without any further delay."