Stardust families were ‘failed for over four decades’, says Harris ahead of State apology

Taoiseach visited site of the 1981 fire on eve of statement to Dáil which he said ‘I really hope can help aid the healing process’

Taoiseach Simon Harris will today issue a State apology to the families of the Stardust fire tragedy, more than 40 years after the blaze that ripped through the nightclub in north Dublin.

Speaking on the way into Government Buildings on Tuesday morning, Mr Harris said: “I think these are families that have been failed for over four decades, they’re families who have looked for answers for over four decades, they’re families who all often have had these gates here shut to them and governments not listening to them.”

Mr Harris will update the Cabinet this morning about the planned apology after an inquest jury last week returned a verdict that all victims were unlawfully killed. It comes after a previous finding in 1982 that the fire the previous year had been started deliberately.

“I have had really important, heartfelt and emotional engagement with many of the families over the last few days. I was very pleased to visit the Stardust Memorial in Artane last night, and I wanted to be there and to be at the spot of where this fire happened, in advance of delivering the apology today,” the Taoiseach said.


“I’ll let the apology speak for itself later in the Dáil. And but I do really hope it’s an apology that can help aid the healing process.”

The relatives of the 48 young people who died in the fire have long called for an official State apology.

The Government will accept last week’s verdict and the recommendations of the inquest jury. Mr Harris will ask Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and other relevant Ministers to report back on their implementation.

Two Government sources said the issue of redress has not yet been explored fully, with the Government keen to keep the focus on the State apology today.

Why did justice for Stardust victims take so long?

Listen | 24:56

The Department of Taoiseach will be tasked with preparing proposals to commemorate the disaster following a consultation with the families.

Stardust relatives and survivors met Mr Harris over the weekend, where he “apologised unreservedly to each family”. Mr Harris described meeting the 70 people who had a connection to the tragedy as “humbling and emotional”.

The families have been invited to Dáil Éireann today and will be sitting in the visitor’s gallery for the State apology. Normal Dáil business — such as Leaders’ Questions — will be postponed for the apology.

Last week a 12-person jury found, for the first time, that the fire that resulted in the deaths of the 48 people, aged 16 to 27, started in a hot-press and was caused by an electrical fault.

The jury found that at the time of the fire, exits in the Stardust Ballroom were either locked, chained, or otherwise obstructed. For this reason, those who died were impeded in their ability to access or exit through the emergency exits.

More than 90 days of evidence and testimony from 373 witnesses were heard at the inquiry.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times