Monday, July 15, 2024

Ireland’s prime minister apologises to families of Stardust nightclub fire victims after ’emotional’ meeting

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Ireland’s new taoiseach has apologised to the families of 48 people killed in the Stardust nightclub fire in 1981, after a decades-long campaign for justice.

Simon Harris held a meeting on Saturday with more than 70 people affected by the fire, which was the worst in Ireland’s history.

In a statement afterwards, the taoiseach said he “apologised unreservedly to each family” and promised they will receive a formal state apology in the Irish parliament on Tuesday.

The apology came after an inquest earlier this week ruled the 48 victims of the fire were all unlawfully killed.

“It was a humbling and emotional meeting,” Mr Harris said. “I want to thank every person who attended for what they told me.

“More than 70 people came to the Department of the Taoiseach today. However, I am acutely aware that the numbers affected by Stardust is many, many multiples of that.

“That includes those injured, the people working in Stardust, the frontline workers who fought to save lives on the night.

“It includes survivors, the fire crews, the ambulance staff, the gardai, the army, the taxi drivers and the communities across Ireland who have carried this tragedy with them for 43 years.”

Simon Harris. Pic: Reuters
Simon Harris said the meeting was ‘humbling and emotional’. Pic: Reuters

After the meeting in Dublin, campaigners said families will receive individual written apologies. They will also work with government officials on the wording of Tuesday’s statement.

Maurice McHugh, whose 17-year-old daughter Caroline died in the fire, welcomed the apology but added: “It has to be genuine, it can’t just be sorry, it needs to be more than that.

“Forty-three years of history – he has a hell of a lot of work to do in three days.”

Read more:
How Stardust was seared into the Irish consciousness

Maurice and Phyllis McHugh, who lost their only child Caroline in the Stardust fire, speaking outside Government Buildings in Dublin, following a meeting with Taoiseach Simon Harris. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Maurice and Phyllis McHugh, who lost their only child in the fire, speaking after the meeting. Pic: PA

The inquest ruling earlier this week came after a previous finding, issued in 1982, said the fire was a result of probable arson – which the families never accepted. That ruling was dismissed in 2009, leading to the latest inquest.

The fire took place in the early hours of Valentine’s Day when the Stardust nightclub, in Artane, north Dublin, was packed with 800 people. More than 200 were injured.

The fire started because of an electrical fault in an airing cupboard, the jury ruled.

In the main ballroom, foam in seating, the height of an alcove ceiling and carpet tiles on walls all contributed to the spread of the blaze, the jurors found.

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