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Stardust relatives want to speak to ska band The Specials about ‘sparks’ in ceiling at gig one month before tragedy


Gardaí at the scene of the Stardust nightclub fire in February 1981

Gardaí at the scene of the Stardust nightclub fire in February 1981

Gardaí at the scene of the Stardust nightclub fire in February 1981

Relatives of those who died in the Stardust fire are attempting to arrange a meeting with British ska band The Specials, who performed at the Artane venue just one month before the 1981 tragedy.

The legendary band, whose hits include Ghost Town and Concrete Jungle, will be in Dublin next month to play a sold-out gig at Trinity College on July 2.

The Specials, still fronted today by original singer Terry Hall, played what was described as a “chaotic” concert at the Stardust on January 15, 1981, supported by The Beat, another popular ‘Two-Tone’ group at the time. It was reported that the show was marred by anti-social behaviour by a minority of those attending, despite repeated appeals for calm by both bands.

Records also reveal that concerns over alleged overcrowding and other issues relating to the event were raised a number of days later by Dublin Corporation in a letter to the owners of the Stardust. The venue, on Kilmore Road, was licenced to hold a maximum of 1,400 people but it’s believed more than 2,000 were at the concert that night.

In response, Stardust management claimed some tickets for the show had been forged and said they had decided “not to stage concerts of this type again”.

A number of people who were at the gig later told gardaí they heard “a crackling sound” and saw “sparks” and “purple flashes” in the ceiling during the performance. One witness likened the effect to that of “sparks from bumper cars” in an amusement arcade.

Antoinette Keegan, chairperson of the Stardust Victims’ Committee, told Independent.ie she is determined to meet members of The Specials when they visit Dublin next month.

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“This was one of the biggest concerts ever held in the Stardust and we would love to find out if anything stands out about that night in the original band members’ minds,” she said. “Given that it happened just weeks before the fire, we are hoping they might remember something of significance that could assist us in our search for answers.

“Our legal team are trying to contact the band’s representatives, and I will be in touch with the promoters of the Trinity College concert to see if they can facilitate our request for a meeting. It would mean so much to us if the band could make it happen.”

Ms Keegan said she remains optimistic that full inquest hearings into the tragedy will proceed in the autumn. There was recently a breakthrough in a dispute between the Stardust families and the Department of Justice over payments for inquest jury members.

Separately, it’s expected that judicial review proceedings being taken by former Stardust manager Eamon Butterly will be heard in July. Mr Butterly is challenging a decision by the senior Dublin coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, not to exclude ‘unlawful killing’ as a verdict open for consideration to a jury.

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