Stardust families say State apology ‘must address systemic abuse’

Families to meet Taoiseach Simon Harris ahead of expected apology in the Dáil on Tuesday

More than four decades after 48 young people, including 13 children, died unlawfully in the Stardust disaster their families will receive a State apology.

Taoiseach Simon Harris, who is consulting with families on Saturday, is expected to deliver the apology in the Dáil on Tuesday.

About 40 family members will meet the Taoiseach at Government Buildings on Saturday morning to tell him what they want in any apology.

They say it “must address the systemic abuse” they have endured “at the hands of the State” since the fire.


Carole Barrett, whose brother Michael (17) was killed, said she was “not interested” in a “formula of words”.

“We, my mother and all our family, we want an apology that is robust, that is strong and that acknowledges what the State put us through. Huge hurt was inflicted in the families by the way the State treated us. Any statement must be honest, humble and meaningful.”

Susan Behan, whose brother John Colgan (21) was killed, said “a huge wrong has been done to us.

“We were left in the wilderness. All our hurt, our pain, our loss was compounded because the State made us feel we basically meant nothing. They turned their back on us and did so much harm. That was so unnecessary, so disrespectful.

“Such a huge injustice has been done especially to the mothers and fathers who did not live to see the verdicts,” she said, following the inquest’s finding on Thursday that all 48 were unlawfully killed. In her thoughts were “mothers like Gertrude [Barrett] and [the late] Christine Keegan who were made to walk the pavements, spent their lives fighting. Any apology has to recognise the State did that to them.”

Antoinette Keegan, a survivor who lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16), said the State must “recognise what they did”. Ms Keegan has campaigned tirelessly since 1981 for justice for her sisters and the other victims. “We were ignored, we were told we were liars, we were told we were mad. We were not mad. We were sad.

“We told the truth from the very beginning – all the letters, all the documents, all the correspondence and we were ignored. We will not be ignored any more,“ she said. “I have fought my whole life and the State is going to have to recognise what they did. The State is going to have to do something.”

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said he had invited the families and loved ones of the Stardust victims to meet him and was “eager to listen closely”.

“The Taoiseach has said he is conscious that these families have felt unheard for four decades, and his priority now is to hear directly from them.

“The Taoiseach has also spoken to the two Coalition party leaders and members of the opposition. The Taoiseach will seek to address the Dáil on Tuesday on the Stardust. His priority, however, remains engagement with the families first.”

Darragh Mackin, the solicitor for 44 of the 45 bereaved families, will attend the meeting. He said: “An apology is not a request, it is a necessity. Any apology must be meaningful and on foot of consultation with the families. Its contents must address the systemic abuse these families have suffered for the last four decades. We look forward to engaging with the Taoiseach in the days ahead.”

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said it was “important” that any apology “does exactly what the families need”.

She said the inquests “had finally delivered the verdict they needed and which they should have got many years ago”.

She was awaiting the final report from Dublin coroner Dr Myra Cullinane. A decision would then be made on whether a further Garda investigation into the disaster should be opened.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times