Minister McEntee receives Cabinet approval to draft legislation on the selection and summoning of the jury for the Stardust Inquests and to ensure payment of wages to jurors so selected
9 June 2022
The Minister for Justice has today received Government approval to draft legislative amendments to put in place bespoke supports for jury selection and summoning in the Stardust inquests.
It is intended that the legislation will be passed before the summer recess and enacted quickly, enabling the Coroner to commence the inquests in line with her proposed timeframe.
This will allow the Dublin Coroner to seek the assistance of the Courts Service in selecting a jury for the Stardust inquests and will allow the jury selection process to operate in a similar way to that civil and criminal court proceedings.
The legislation will also ensure that employers will continue to pay the wages of people summoned to serve on the Stardust inquests jury, similar to provisions for criminal and civil trial juries.
These supports are being provided for by the Minister to address the concerns raised by victims’ families, in recognition that the inquests may span a number of months, while also conscious of the principles underpinning jury service as a civic duty that must be carried out with impartiality and fairness.
These special jury provisions will apply only to the Stardust inquests given the extraordinary circumstances.
The Minister intends that all matters pertaining to coronial law will be considered in the review currently underway in her Department as set out in the Justice Plan 2022.
Following the Cabinet meeting, Minister McEntee said:
“The Government’s decision today allows for the urgent drafting of special provisions relating to the selection and summoning of jurors for the new Stardust Inquests.”
“In this regard, the Dublin Coroner will be entitled to request the assistance of the Courts Service in selecting and summoning a jury by ballot drawn from the Electoral Register.”
“I had promised to address the concerns raised, particularly by representatives of the Stardust victims’ families, with regard to the empanelling of a representative jury.”
“As the Stardust Inquests are anticipated to take some considerable time compared to other inquests, I am also making provision that employers would be required to pay the wages of employees summoned to serve on the Stardust Inquests jury.”
Note for editors
The legislative provisions in respect of special arrangements for the jury at the Stardust Inquests will be contained in a civil law miscellaneous provisions Bill which is being developed to deal with urgent matters relating to the humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine.
It is intended that the Bill will be enacted by the end of the current parliamentary session.
The proposed Stardust Inquests legislative provisions would:
- disapply Part IV of the Coroners Act 1962, including section 43 where the coroner informs An Garda Síochána to assemble a jury for an inquest;
- draw on relevant provisions of the Juries Act 1976 and the Coroners Bill 2007, with suitable amendment, for the jury selection and summoning process and the eligibility and disqualification criteria;
- permit the Dublin Coroner to request the assistance of the Courts Service in selecting and summoning a jury by ballot drawn from the Electoral Register.
The proposed special legislative provisions would allow for the selection and summoning of Stardust Inquests jurors in a manner broadly similar to that used by the Courts under the 1976 Juries Act.
The jurors selected for the Stardust Inquests will be empanelled by the Dublin Coroner.
The Stardust Inquests are anticipated by the Dublin Coroner to take some considerable time once commenced - estimated at 3-6 months. This is an exceptional length of time for an inquest. Thus, the proposed special legislation will also provide that employers would be required to pay the wages of employees summoned to serve on the Stardust Inquests jury by replicating the provisions of section 29 of the Juries Act.
The special provisions relating to the selection and summoning of jurors and ensuring payment of wages would apply only to the Stardust Inquests.
Work is underway in the Minister’s Department on proposals for a wider reform of the national coroner service.