‘We just want the truth’: Stardust families seek inquiry

‘I screamed the hospital down’, survivor recounts learning of sisters’ deaths in fire

Antoinette Keegan survived the Stardust nightclub fire in February 1981 but lost her sisters Mary and Martina to the blaze in which 48 people died and 214 were injured. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

The families of the Stardust disaster need an inquiry to bring closure and justice, according to a survivor of the fire.

Forty-eight people died in a fire at the nightclub in Artane, Dublin, in the early hours of February 14th, 1981.

Two of Antoinette Keegan’s sisters - Mary and Martina - died in the fire and she was seriously injured.

She told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that she had not been informed of the deaths of her sisters until two and half weeks after the fire, as doctors feared the shock would kill her.

“My parents changed their funeral clothes and lied to me for two and a half weeks. When a priest told me, I screamed the hospital down and a matron said they would keep me longer if I didn’t stop.”

Ms Keegan said she had a letter from Fianna Fáil saying the party agreed to the call for an inquiry and that two of the party’s Dublin TDs, John Lahart and Darragh O’Brien, both said they supported such a move.

“The resistance is from the Department of Justice. The Minister (for Justice Frances Fitzgerald) knows. She has the evidence. Those reports have serious information,” she said.

“We want to make sure this time that it is legal. For 35 years we’ve never been in a court of law.

“We’re not looking for anything big. We just want the truth on the public record.”

She added that the families very much appreciated the efforts of two local public representatives Independent TDs Tommy Broughan and Finian McGrath.

Investigation

Fine Gael has committed to establishing a commission of investigation into the tragedy if an independent person finds any new evidence in the case.

The Cabinet is split on whether to establish a statutory inquiry.

In a proposed compromise to the Independent Alliance, Fine Gael has said it will appoint someone to examine any new information.

If there is anything discovered that may assist, it has committed to a statutory inquiry.

The Independent Alliance is seeking a free vote on a motion being introduced in the Dáil by Mr Broughan, calling for a new inquiry.

Mr McGrath met the families of those killed in the fire on Tuesday night. They say they have “significant new evidence” and want a new inquiry.

They have always rejected the finding by a tribunal of inquiry after the blaze that the “more probable explanation of the fire is that it was caused deliberately”.

It is understood Mr McGrath, who is supported by his colleague Minister for Transport Shane Ross, has not yet agreed to the proposed counter motion by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.