Emotional scenes as Stardust disaster remembered
The popular nightclub in Artane, Dublin, was destroyed in a blaze on Valentine’s Day in 1981.
There were tears outside Leinster House as families and survivors of the Stardust fire gathered to remember the 48 young people who died in the disaster.
The popular nightclub in Artane, Dublin, was destroyed in a blaze on Valentine’s Day in 1981 in what is considered the worst fire disaster in the history of the state.
Antoinette Keegan, who survived the fire but lost her two sisters Mary, 19, and Martina, 16, was tearful on Thursday, as she recounted her experience fighting for her life after the fire, and for justice in the years since.
A shrine has been erected outside Leinster House during a vigil for the victims of the Stardust fire disaster. The families have been calling for a new inquest for a number of years. 48 young people died on Valentine’s Day at a dance in Artane, Dublin in 1981. pic.twitter.com/oOXRvKNMqN— aoife-grace moore. (@aoifegracemoore) February 14, 2019
The families recently petitioned the Attorney General for a new inquest, citing fresh, previously unrecorded evidence.
“We picked here because the 48 victims of this fire have become insignificant to this government and previous government,” she said.
“We want the inquest reopened and we want the verdict recorded and we shouldn’t have to do this.
“For us this is a day of sadness, the Government have not responded, and just ignored us.
“I’d like to ask Leo Varadkar if he would like his mother to go through 38 years of injustice like my mother does, and the other families, there’s a young girl here today who lost her mother – she should be together with her mother on Valentine’s Day.
“In any other country, those who are responsible are held to account, but not in Ireland.
“With an inquest we can get truth, we can get closure, without closure you feel trapped.
“We’re consumed, morning, noon and night it’s Stardust.
“We’re not called by our names any more, it’s ‘Stardust families’, it’s all still very raw.”
38 years ago this morning Dublin woke up to the tragic news of the 48 people who died in the #Stardust fire. As ever, thinking of the families, friends, survivors & community pic.twitter.com/bcnKfrtIuM— Dublin Fire Brigade (@DubFireBrigade) February 14, 2019
Investigations into the fire showed that a number of escape routes from the dance hall were blocked as emergency doors were locked by chains. Concerns have also been raised about the investigation of the scene, which allowed politicians and media to walk through the building just hours later.
Despite findings of safety breaches, there were no prosecutions over the incident.
An initial finding of probable arson meant that the relatives of the dead and injured were unable to sue the club owners and operators for alleged negligence.
In 1983, the owners of the Stardust were awarded damages of more than 730,000 euro after suing Dublin Corporation.
The initial verdict of arson, which victims have always denied, has since been thrown out.
Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan, who has been campaigning on behalf of the families, says the fight has gone on too long.
“Lots of people are out and about today, young and in love, and to think back to all those young people 38 years ago who never came home,” she said.
“People should email the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and ask him to meet with the families.
“We need to keep the pressure on the Government, the Attorney General that these families deserve justice, it’s gone on too long now for anybody to wait.”
On Thursday evening, families, survivors and around 100 supporters gathered for a candlelit vigil at the site of the fire in Artane.
A plaque adorned with the names of the 48 people who died was unveiled by broadcaster Charlie Bird, who produced one of the most prominent documentaries about the tragedy.
A rose was laid for each victim, while the once-banned Christy Moore single They Never Came Home was played.