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Stardust survivor pays emotional tribute to her late mother

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Antoinette Keegan, right, who lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16) in the Stardust fire with her late mother Christine in 2016. Picture by Arthur Carron

Antoinette Keegan, right, who lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16) in the Stardust fire with her late mother Christine in 2016. Picture by Arthur Carron

Antoinette Keegan, right, who lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16) in the Stardust fire with her late mother Christine in 2016. Picture by Arthur Carron

Stardust fire survivor and campaigner Antoinette Keegan has paid an emotional tribute to her late mother Christine as the families of the 48 victims of the inferno face the grim 40th anniversary of the tragedy on Sunday.

Ms Keegan was in attendance at the ill-fated dance at the Stardust nightclub in Artane on Valentine’s Day in 1981 when a fire broke out in the disco, killing her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16) along with 46 other young club-goers.

As she and other heartbroken families relive the horrors of that night and mark four decades since the tragedy, Ms Keegan said this weekend will be particularly hard to endure, especially as the family continues to mourn the loss of Christine (84), who died last July after devoting almost forty years of her life fighting for justice for the Stardust victims.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne, Miss Keegan fought back tears as she described how the anniversary will be an emotional one for the Keegan family.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult because our Ma was a rock, she was like a champion to us, she held us all together, even though she suffered so much loss in her whole life, losing two sisters and losing her two daughters and then me Dad passing away in 1986, she carried the campaign and she just kept fighting and fighting for justice,” she said.

“And this year is going to be really hard because it was on Valentine’s Day that we found out that me Ma was sick.

She was a great mother to us all. Even when I was at the hospital and when she was after burying her two daughters, she came up and smiled even though she was heartbroken after burying her two daughters.”

“The smile in her eyes always shone bright. She was the light and soul of our hearts. We’re literally all heartbroken over it, we just still can’t believe that she’s gone.”

Ms Keegan, who vowed to carry on her mother’s campaign for justice following Christine’s death last summer, said that while her mother was delighted when she ‘told a little white lie’ that a fresh inquest had been granted before her death, the fact that an inquest is due to take place later this year will be very difficult for the families involved.

Asked how she will cope if she is called upon to testify, she broke down during the interview, stating: “I don’t know.”

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She recalled the horrific memory of being led out of the Coroner’s Court in tears during an initial inquest in 1982 after hearing the gruesome details of how her sister Mary died.

“It’s still a memory imprinted in my head and I can still remember every detail (of the fire),” she said.

The inquest, which is due to take place at the RDS, is expected to be the biggest and longest in the history of the State.

However, solicitor Darragh Mackin representing the Stardust families, said families have yet to receive any advance payments from the Department of Justice for legal aid to allow them to prepare for the inquest.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald today called the situation unacceptable.

“The failure of the Dept of Justice means the families legal teams cannot begin the work of preparing for the inquest.

"This means the inquest itself has stalled. This is not acceptable. The Stardust families have already waited forty long and heart-breaking years for justice.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council today announced that it has carried out an upgrade of the Stardust Memorial Park in Coolock ahead of the anniversary.

Thousands of early-blooming bulbs like snowdrops were planted to coincide with the anniversary while a wildflower meadow was planted near the sunken garden..

“Work has been carried out on the most important feature of the park, the Memorial itself. A mix of white early flowering spring bulbs were chosen to flower around this time every year. Two benches were also commissioned so that anyone who wants to spend time at the Memorial has somewhere to sit,” the council said in a statement.

Dublin City Council hopes the immediate community and beyond will continue to enjoy the park and remember the 48 people who tragically lost their lives.”


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