Stardust inquests: ‘No one believed us. We never gave up’

Several express anger and demand State apology for having had to wait 40 years for this outcome

Families cheered, sighed and got to their feet in applause in Dublin coroners court as the foreman of the jury uttered the words “unlawful killing” — the verdict for all 48 who died as a result of the 1981 Stardust fire — just after 2.50pm on Thursday.

Hundreds of family members packed the Pillar Room at the Rotunda Hospital and many held each other and sobbed. The handful of elderly parents were hugged by adult children. Barristers, court registrars and members of the media wiped away tears.

At the Garden of Remembrance afterwards, families described their relief and joy. A number expressed anger and said they wanted an apology from the State for having had to wait four decades for this outcome.

Antoinette Keegan, who survived the blaze but lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16), said she was “overwhelmed” by the verdict.


“I am in a daze. The truth has been told. The jury confirmed the doors were locked and all the time we were told the doors weren’t locked. I knew they were locked and tried to tell the truth and no one believed us. We never gave up. We couldn’t.”

Alison Croker, whose sister Jacqueline (18) died, said she was “delighted” but added: “It is time the Irish State apologises for the systematic abuse we have been put through over and over again.”

Paul Morgan travelled from Derry to hear the verdict in respect of his sister Susan Morgan (19). “I was 23 and I had to come down to identify her by her signet ring with her initials and her cardigan. I landed down on Valentine’s Day and went to all the hospitals, couldn’t find her. When I found her our whole life turned upside down. I am so happy for all the families but also sad. It’s just so sad.”

Paul Lawless (86) father of Sandra Lawless (18) said he was “feeling great” and described the verdict as “a very good outcome”. He added: “I think it is a day for healing to begin”. He was there with his children Fidelma, Brian, Brendan and Valerie.

The inquests had given them comfort and information about how their sister died, said Fidelma though she added that “reliving the memories” was difficult for her father.

“It was important for us, the brothers and sisters, to learn what happened because we didn’t want to upset our parents by asking over and over again what happened. It gave us the answers that we never had.” She regretted their mother, Bridget, did not live to see the day.

Gertrude Barrett (80) who lost her son Michael (17) said she “never doubted” the verdict. “It was what I wanted. I am on this mission since the night I went out looking for my child. I feel good for Michael and those who perished. This is their day.”

Laura Millar travelled from Belfast, the only surviving family member of her brother Jim Millar (20). She was “ecstatic but sad as well that my mum, [Norah] and dad [James] aren’t here to see justice and truth at last.”

Louise McDermott spoke to the media on behalf of her mother Brigid McDermott who lost three of her children. Marcella (16), George (18) and William (22). “Our mother was here today to get the unlawful killing for her three children. It is a very emotional day for all the families here. A 43-year fight. We shouldn’t have had to have done that. It should have been sorted a long time ago,” she said.

“I’d just like to say to the 48 now, ‘We are taking you out of the flames, the darkness, the smoke of the Stardust and we are bringing you back to the sunshine and the light and the music. And you are coming back to us.”

Samantha Mangan, who lost her mother Helena Mangan (22) said: “I was only four years of age when she died, she went out to have fun with her boyfriend John Stout (18) who also died that night. I have had to, for the past 43 years, wonder why and what happened to my mam. Today we got justice and truth and we all know what happened that night.”

Susan Behan, lost her brother John Colgan (21). “I represent my mam and dad and my brother John Colgan. I was 22 and we had so many things to look forward to. Now I know what happened to him. For 43 years I wondered why. Now I know and justice has been served for all of the 48″.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times