838. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice when legal aid regulations will be introduced to facilitate the commencement of the Stardust inquiry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17543/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The Government is committed to ensuring that the Stardust inquests will proceed as soon as it is safe to do so, having regard to public health guidelines.
Extensive work has already been undertaken towards this end. Government funding of up to €8m has been allocated for the new inquests to cover a number of areas including legal aid for families. A bespoke courtroom has been built for the purpose of the inquest at the RDS and IT facilities developed to ensure that family members will also be able to follow the events remotely when not in the courtroom.
The Legal Aid Board notified my Department very recently that some of the Stardust victims’ families would not qualify for legal aid as they exceed the income limits currently in force by the Legal Aid Board, as required by the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995. Having been made aware of the issue of eligibility, I instructed my officials to commence work on an exceptional solution for the Stardust families, whereby the initial fee will be waived and appropriate legal support will be provided regardless of the means of the families involved.
The new regulations under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995, will be finalised shortly and the Legal Aid Board will review the applications that have been certified by the Coroner immediately. I encourage all of the families to engage with the Legal Aid Board should they wish to receive legal support as soon as possible.
It is the my sincere hope that the inquests will meet the needs of the families involved and it is my expectation that all concerned will play their part in ensuring that the inquests can progress without delay. Question No. 839 answered with Question No. 797.