President to lead Stardust memorial ceremony this weekend

Event will include performances by musicians such as Christy Moore, violinist Zoe Conway and uileann piper Kevin Rowsome

Families of the Stardust survivors and victims outside Government Buildings in April after the Taoiseach Simon Harris gave a formal apology for years of State failures. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

President Michael D Higgins will lead a remembrance ceremony for victims of the 1981 Stardust disaster at an event in Dublin this weekend.

The President will lay a wreath on behalf of the Irish people at the event in the Gardens of Remembrance to commemorate the 48 people, aged 16 to 27, who died as a result of a fire in the north Dublin nightclub in the early hours of 14th February, 1981. Earlier this year inquests into the deaths found all 48 had been unlawfully killed.

News that the event would go ahead follows days of uncertainty over the participation of some families, including that of veteran campaigner Antoinette Keegan, who survived the disaster but lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16).

She and others were unhappy with a number of issues, including an apparent lack of progress on establishment of a redress scheme; inclusion of the tragedy in school curricula; and a Garda review of the case.


On Thursday evening she said she had been contacted by the Taoiseach Simon Harris, who confirmed a senior counsel would be appointed in coming days to head a redress scheme. This would be established in a number of phases, she added.

Mr Harris will host Sunday’s event and lead Government attendees. It will include musical performances by Christy Moore, violinist Zoe Conway, uileann piper Kevin Rowsome, and the Dublin Fire Brigade band, with prayers led by Father Joe Jones, formerly of Bonnybrook Parish, and a reflection by author Roddy Doyle.

Floral tributes will be laid by families in the Garden pool, with extracts from pen portraits delivered at the inquests’ opening last year read aloud.

On April 23rd Mr Harris delivered a State apology in the Dáil to the families in which he said they had during 43 years been repeatedly failed when they “needed [the State] most”.

In a statement last month he said when he had met the families in Government Buildings in advance of the State apology he had committed to holding a “special remembrance ceremony”.

A Garda spokesman said the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (GNBCI) had been tasked with examining the two investigation files that were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in 1981 and 2016 respectively.

“This examination will be carried out in conjunction with consideration of the coroner’s report, on the verdicts of unlawful killing, and any matters brought to the attention of An Garda Síochána by the coroner in accordance with the MOU [memorandum of understanding] between An Garda Síochána and the coroner.

“This work is ongoing at this time. This is not a cold-case review.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times