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Members of the Stardust families on their way to meet Taoiseach Simon Harris at Government Buildings on Saturday, Dublin Sasko Lazarov
Stardust fire

Families of Stardust victims arrive at Leinster House for long-awaited State apology

The Taoiseach will make the apology today in the Dáil at 2pm.

LAST UPDATE | 23 Apr

FAMILIES OF THE victims of the 1981 Stardust tragedy have arrived at Dáil Éireann where Taoiseach Simon Harris will deliver a long-awaited State apology this afternoon.

The apology comes after the jury in the Stardust inquests last week returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of all 48 victims. 

The inquests, which began in April 2023 and involved 95 days of evidence, were the longest ever held in Ireland and came after decades of campaigning by the families and loved ones of those who perished. 

At 2pm today, Taoiseach Simon Harris will deliver a State apology to the victims’ families. 

errol-buckley-holds-a-photo-of-his-brother-jimmy-buckley-who-died-in-the-fire-as-he-arrives-at-leinster-house-dublin-ahead-of-taoiseach-simon-harris-issuing-a-state-apology-to-the-families-of-the Errol Buckley holds a photo of his brother Jimmy Buckley, who died in the fire, as he arrives at Leinster House, Dublin. Alamy Alamy

At a Cabinet meeting this morning, Harris asked Government to note his intention to give the Dáil apology. 

He also informed Cabinet that the Government accepts the verdict and recommendations of the inquest jury and will ask the Minister for Justice and other relevant ministers to report back on their implementation. 

He also tasked the Department of An Taoiseach to prepare proposals to appropriately commemorate the disaster, as requested by the families. 

The details of today’s State apology are being kept under wraps by the Department of An Taoiseach and it is unclear how extensive the apology will be and what will be included in it. 

At the weekend, Harris met with families of the Stardust victims and apologised “unreservedly” to them ahead of the State apology today. 

gertrude-barrett-whose-son-michael-barrett-died-in-the-stardust-fire-arrives-with-her-daughter-carole-at-leinster-house-dublin-ahead-of-taoiseach-simon-harris-issuing-a-state-apology-to-the-famili Gertrude Barrett, whose son Michael Barrett died in the Stardust fire, arrived with her daughter Carole at Leinster House, Dublin today ahead of the State apology. Alamy Alamy

Speaking to reporters on his way into Cabinet this morning, the Taoiseach said he has “really important, heartfelt and emotional engagement with many of the families over the last few days”. 

He said he visited the Stardust memorial in Artane last night, adding: “I wanted to be there and be at the spot of where this fire happened in advance of delivering the apology today.” 

Harris said he will let the apology speak for itself in the Dáil later, but said that he hopes “it’s an apology that can help ease the healing process”. 

Families of the victims have themselves called for a State apology while Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the apology must be “full, unequivocal and transparent”. 

“The families have told me very clearly they do not want tea and sympathy. They do not want generalised sentiment,” she said.

“What they want are specific acknowledgements of the horror, the trauma, that they have been through.”

Antoinette Keegan’s two sisters - Mary (19) and Martina (16) – died in the Stardust fire. 

stardust-survivor-antoinette-keegan-who-lost-her-two-sisters-mary-and-martina-in-the-fire-with-solicitor-darragh-mackin-as-she-arrives-at-leinster-house-dublin-ahead-of-taoiseach-simon-harris-issu Stardust survivor Antoinette Keegan, who lost her two sisters Mary and Martina in the fire, with solicitor Darragh Mackin as she arrived at Leinster House, Dublin. Alamy Alamy

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Keegan said said today’s public apology has to be “robust” and “sincere”. 

“It has to address the issue, the systematic abuse that the families of deceased victims sustained for the past 43 years from the Irish State,” she said. 

Keegan said Harris acknowledged that during his meeting with families at the weekend.

“At the meeting on Saturday, he did say he was sorry and that he would be doing a public apology. He knows the hurt and pain the families have gone through from losing their loved ones that fatal night,” she said. 

For 43 years, the families and loved ones of those who died in the fire have fought for closure and the truth about what happened. 

Over that time there has been two inquests, a Tribunal of Inquiry, a compensation tribunal and a number of investigations and reports. 

In the initial tribunal of inquiry in 1981, the cause of the fire was deemed to be unknown but that it was likely to have been started deliberately.

This presumption was heavily disputed but it was not until 2009 that a tribunal rejected it and had the finding of arson struck from the public record. 

Last week, Tánaiste Micheál Martin accepted that the arson ruling had caused the families “enormous anxiety” and said the Government must now do what is right by the families. 

He also signalled that the Government will give “serious consideration” to a redress scheme for the families. 

  • You can read a timeline of the Tribunals, reports and inquest that led to last week’s verdict and today’s State apology here.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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