Hundreds join protest to demand new inquest for Stardust nightclub fire victims

Hundreds of people have joined survivors and families of the Stardust nightclub fire victims in a protest to demand a new inquest.

A total of 48 young people died in the popular club in Artane, Dublin, on Valentine’s Day 1981 in what is considered the worst fire disaster in the history of the state.

About 48,000 signatures were collected by the Justice for Stardust campaign group, who travelled all over Ireland to publicise their case.

Families say they have new evidence, uncovered through freedom of information requests and previously unheard witness testimony, to warrant a new inquest, and have often claimed there was a cover-up by the government at the time.

On the march, public representatives from Sinn Fein, Solidarity and People Before Profit, as well as folk singer Christy Moore, walked with the families from Westland Row to the Attorney General’s office in Dublin to deliver the signatures.

Moore, who wrote campaign song They Never Came Home, said he was happy to support the families in their campaign.

Christy Moore
Christy Moore (Johnny Green/PA)

“I am hopeful. This has been going on far too long, it’s time these families were given the truth, they need some peace of mind,” he said.

Antoinette Keegan, whose sisters Mary, 19, and Martina, 16, were killed in the fire, made an impassioned speech on the steps of the Attorney General’s office, joined by her 82-year-old mother Christine.

“In the aftermath of the fire we trusted the state,” she said.

“We remain to this day, dismissed and fobbed off, we have been systematically abused for 37 years.

“We were left like lambs to the slaughter, but we never gave up, and we never will until we get truth and justice.”

Christine Keegan, left, and her daughter Antoinette
Christine Keegan, left, and her daughter Antoinette (Julien Behal/PA)

Officials originally ruled that the cause of the fire was arson, a theory that was never accepted by the families.

It was later ruled out following a fresh inquiry in 2009.

Eugene Kelly, whose brother Robert, 17, died in the tragedy, said lack of answers makes it impossible for families to move on.

“We struggle, we’re still carrying the scar. I hope this delivers some justice so we can move on with our lives.

“There are elderly women here, fighting for their kids, being pushed in a wheelchair in the rain here today, it’s a disgrace.

“Why can’t this government just put their hands up? Give us justice once and for all.”

Eugene Kelly, right, with Antoinette Keegan
Eugene Kelly, right, with Antoinette Keegan (Niall Carson/PA)

Investigations showed a number of escape routes from the dance hall were blocked as emergency doors were locked with chains. Concerns have also been raised about the investigation of the scene, which allowed politicians and media to walk through the building days after the fire.

On the steps of the Attorney General’s office, a young relative read out the names of the 48 people who died, before Selina McDermott, who lost her two brothers and sister in the fire, read a message from the mothers who lost their children.

Police at the scene in 1981
Police at the scene in 1981 (Tony Harris/PA)

“We have learned that the Stardust is something we can never get over, but something that we carry,” she said.

“The name Stardust is a cruel reminder of the horror that we have suffered.

“Why then have we been left to carry such a sorrowful burden for so long without respite?”

Also in attendance were families involved in the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign and the Carrickmines fire.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS