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Stardust survivor and justice campaigner Antoinette Keegan outside the Dáil yesterday. ©
antoinette keegan

Stardust campaigner refuses to accept apologies of local TDs Seán Haughey and Richard Bruton

Both TDs apologised and admitted that they could’ve served the families better during their fight for justice.

A STARDUST SURVIVOR, Antoinette Keegan, has said she does not accept the apologies from Fianna Fáil TD Seán Haughey and Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton as she believes their past actions stopped victims and families from getting justice.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Simon Harris gave a State apology to the families and victims of the Stardust tragedy, where 48 people lost their lives after a fire at Dublin nightclub on 14 February 1981 after a fresh inquest ruled their deaths as an unlawful killing last week.

Charlie Haughey, was Taoiseach at the time for the incident and called for the initial tribunal to be held less than a week after the fire. His son, Seán Haughey, and Richard Bruton are both TDs for the constituency from which the majority of the families hail.

Both Dublin Bay North TDs apologised and admitted that they could have served the families better during their fight for justice.

Keegan, speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland today, said the reason why she could not to accept the apologies was that both TDs had not continued the pursuit of justice after a judicial review, carried out by Pat McCartan in 2017, ruled that a fresh inquiry was not required.

This was despite the first, highly-contested, inquiry ruled that the cause of the fire was arson, which victims and families believed lay blame on their deceased loved ones.

  • You can read about the timeline of the Tribunals, reports and inquests that led to last week’s verdict here.

The latest inquiry has struck the arson ruling from the record and ruled that the fire started in the hot press of the Stardust nightclub after an electrical fault.

‘The chains and padlocks were again put in place’

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Haughey said: “For my own part, I genuinely believe I consistently followed up with any issue the [Stardust victims'] committee asked me to do.

“I raised various matters in the Dáil, I wrote to the relevant ministers as requested. But, if I’m honest though, this was not enough. I also admit that my relations with the committee were, at times, fraught and I do regret that.

“I admit too that when Pat McCartan issued his finding in 2017 to the effect that no new inquiry was warranted I could not see how the case could be advanced further. So, the decision to seek new inquests was an inspired one.

“I am in awe of the persistence of the families at that dark time to continue to fight, and they did so with determination and great dignity,” Haughey said.

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021Stardust State Apology_90704029 48 people died in the Stardust nightclub on the night of the fire. © ©

Bruton said: “The burning sense of injustice has fired this families throughout a very long struggle. And we who represent them in the constituency have failed them and I acknowledge that fully.

The TD also referenced the chains and padlocks which locked many of the exits of the nightclub on the night, saying the families and victims were once again impacted by them during their fight for justice: 

“Often it seemed that the chains and the padlocks were being again put in place as they sought to find justice from a system which always seemed to have the doors closed.”

“Your anger and frustration with politicians and the system is amply justified,” Bruton added.

Keegan said she did not accept the apology as she believed Haughey and Bruton had not adequately supported the families’ fight for another tribunal after the McCarton review in 2017.

“I actually was very annoyed yesterday with them because doing that apology was just [trying to] look good for the public,” Keegan told the programme.

Keegan claims her previous requests to Haughey and Bruton for the case to be advanced to a new inquiry had fallen on deaf ears.

“They locked the doors from us getting in, we were locked out. In the Stardust we were locked in with the chains and doors but they locked locked the doors from helping us.”

Stardust families were ‘betrayed by the State’ for four decades

Speaking at an event in Dublin this morning, Simon Harris said that the apology is one of four steps that he wishes to take in order to complement the inquest’s ruling last week.

“I’m not going to comment on the criminal aspect because there is a process that Gardaí will have to consider. The inquest report and the Gardaí, with independence of the political process, decide what action to take or not take,” Harris said.

Harris said he plans on issuing a letter of apology on behalf of the State and that he was working with the families and his own internal team to get the wording of the letters “right”.

IMG20240424083704 Taoiseach Simon Harris was speaking at an event in Leinster House yesterday. Órla Ryan / The Journal Órla Ryan / The Journal / The Journal

He also wanted to ensure that the victims and families received adequate counselling as a result of the many years which they were “betrayed by the State”.

Lastly, Harris hopes to fulfil all the recommendations which were made by the latest inquiry, which included requirements for all buildings to receive increased and thorough fire inspections.

“I thank the families for engaging with me, I can understand why engaging with the State is not an easy or often pleasant thing for Stardust families to do, having been betrayed by the State so often over 43 years.

“So I don’t, in any way, shape or form, take for granted the willingness of Antoinette Keegan to take my phone call last Thursday evening, the willingness for 70 people to come into government buildings [yesterday],” the Taoiseach said.

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