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Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking with Stardust campaigner Antoinette Keegan. Tadgh McNally
41 years on

Taoiseach unveils memorial to Stardust victims on 41st anniversary of the tragedy

The memorial was launched by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation today.

A MEMORIAL TO honour those who died in the Stardust nightclub fire has been unveiled in Dublin.

The Stardust tragedy saw 48 young people killed and over 200 people injured at a disco in the Stardust nightclub in Artane on 14 February 1981.

Today is the 41st anniversary of the fire, with a vigil to mark the anniversary being held yesterday outside the former venue.

The memorial was launched by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and unveiled by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and former broadcaster Charlie Bird earlier today.

Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that what happened in February 1981 “remains a national tragedy” and that it is an “enduring trauma” for the loved ones who are campaigning for justice.

“It was, it is and it remains a national tragedy and a terrible enduring trauma for so many people, particularly the families of those lost,” said Martin.

“The events of that night had an immense traumatic impact on everyone who attended the Stardust, on their families, on the wider local community, and indeed the entire nation.”

Martin said that the families remain on a journey for justice and that he wants to see the inquests take place.

The new inquests, which were ordered in 2019 by then-Attorney General Seamus Wolfe, are yet to get underway, with pre-inquest hearings still ongoing. A new venue for the inquests was also selected, with future hearings to be held in the Rotunda Hospital.

Charlie Bird, speaking before the unveiling of the memorial, said that he believed had the tragedy occurred in a middle-class area, the truth would have been discovered long ago.

“Hopefully now the Stardust families will get the truth and justice they deserve,” said Bird, speaking through his voice bank.

He also paid tribute to the frontline healthcare workers who worked throughout the pandemic and to the healthcare workers who treated victims of the Stardust fire.

Following the unveiling of the memorial, the Taoiseach spoke with the Stardust campaigners about the inquests.

Speaking to The Journal, prominent campaigner Antoinette Keegan said that the families raised their two biggest concerns with the Taoiseach – the selection of a jury for the inquest and the paying of jury members.

“Between the Minister for Justice and the Taoiseach, they can actually fix this problem that we’re left with, because the inquest can’t proceed.

“The families want to know will the jury be paid, because the jury has to be paid.”

The original inquest was held without a jury.

Keegan says that with the length of time the inquest is expected to last, employers cannot be expected to pay their employees while they are on jury duty, so an exemption needs to be made by the Government.

The memorial, which is located in the former Richmond Hospital in Smithfield, Co Dublin, was designed by Irish artist Robert Ballagh. A memorial for those who died due to Covid-19 was also unveiled.

Keegan said that the memorials themselves were “absolutely beautiful” and that it was very important for her to have Bird attend the unveiling.

“He’s [Bird] been supporting us, like Christy Moore, for so many years and we’re here to support him,” said Keegan.

President of the INMO, Karen McGowan said that the Stardust tragedy had impacted so many people, and that it lives on in the mind of people across the country.

“The memory of the Stardust disaster, in which 48 people tragically lost their lives and over 200 were injured when a fire broke out in a nightclub in Artane on Dublin’s northside, lives on in the hearts and minds of so many people in Ireland,” said McGowan.

“Stardust has scarred a generation in Dublin, particularly on this side of the city. It is particularly poignant that we are launching todays memorials here on the grounds of the old Richmond Hospital where many victims were treated in the aftermath.”