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After 39-year wait, new inquest into Stardust deaths to start next year


Antoinette, who lost sisters Mary and Martina, with mum Christine

Antoinette, who lost sisters Mary and Martina, with mum Christine

Antoinette, who lost sisters Mary and Martina, with mum Christine

The families of the Stardust victims say they are "elated" at the news that inquests into the deaths of 48 people in the nightclub fire almost 40 years ago are to finally begin early next year.

The venue will be Dublin Castle where some preliminary hearings are expected to be held in the coming months in preparation for the full sittings in 2021.

Senior coroner for Dublin, Dr Myra Cullinane, will be in charge of the proceedings, which will be held in public although the likelihood that precautions will still have to be taken because of Covid-19 means attendances will be restricted.

Families of the victims last night welcomed the news. Among them was Antoinette Keegan, whose sisters Mary and Martina died in the blaze.

She said the family was "elated" that the inquests will finally go ahead.

Her 84-year-old mother Christine, who was a long time campaigner for justice for the Stardust victims, died just last month on July 14.

Antoinette Keegan paid an emotional tribute to her last night.

"It is after coming three weeks after my Mam passed away. We know that my Mam's up there. We all feel that she had a push on this. She has done it from heaven with my Da," she said.

"They never gave up the fight for justice. We feel that when she passed away, she was going to help us down here.

"The whole family now has a great input into it. They are not going to let it go."

She said her family down to the grandchildren will keep fighting for justice.

"It is my Mam and Da's 60th anniversary on August 27, so she will celebrate that with my Da up in heaven. She was so determined.

"We all promised 'we won't let you down.'"

Maurice Frazer whose sister Thelma also lost her life in the tragedy, said: "At long last some movement on the inquests of my sister Thelma, her boyfriend Michael and 46 others.

"Hopefully some of my late Dad's questions will be at the very least acknowledged," he wrote on social media.

A dedicated website developed by the Dublin Coroner's Office with information on the inquests has gone live at www.stardustfireinquests.ie

Senator Lynn Boylan, who has worked with the families to campaign for the inquests, welcomed the confirmation that arrangements were being finalised after fears that lockdown restrictions would delay proceedings.

"I am also pleased to see that Dublin Castle has been confirmed as the location for the inquest," she said.

"The Stardust inquest will be the largest inquest in the history of the State and the families of those who died wanted a location that would be accessible and appropriate for such a significant undertaking."

The Stardust fire happened during a Valentine's Night disco in the Artane premises in 1981. As well as the 48 people who died, more than 200 were injured.

Brief inquests were held into the deaths at the time but were mainly concerned with establishing the medical cause of death of the victims.

Coroners' courts have powers to investigate the wider circumstances that lead to deaths.

The families of the Stardust victims have for years asked for these powers to be utilised. Their campaign was boosted by the Hillsborough families in the UK succeeding in their battle to have fresh inquests.