Remembering those who never came home – 35 years on

 

I was going to write a blog about Goths and Valentine’s Day, but then I wrote this instead because it happened close to where I live and has always stayed with me.

 

For most people, Valentine’s Day is synonymous with love and romance. But for a community in North Dublin, it is associated with loss, pain and tragedy.

On February 14th, 1981, hundreds of young people attended the Stardust Disco in Artane for a Valentine’s night dance. However, the night’s celebrations turned to horror when a fire broke out and swept through the venue, killing 48 and injuring over 200 more, leaving them physically and mentally scarred. Most of the dead were young teenagers from the surrounding areas and whole communities were plunged into mourning in the aftermath of the disaster.

I was eleven years old when this happened, and lived in the area. I still remember the atmosphere of shock and disbelief that hung over the neighbourhood like smoke.  In the weeks that followed, the papers and TV news speculated on the cause of the fire. A tribunal of enquiry was convened and eventually, a verdict of arson was reached, blaming patrons for starting the fire and exonerating the owners. The death toll was exacerbated by the fact that exit doors had chains on them or were blocked by obstacles and windows in the toilets were barred. This led to a complete revision of fire safety rules, but came too late to save those who perished in the tragedy.

DITD009_Stardust_Memorial_Park

The Stardust Memorial Park, Kilmore, North Dublin

Over the years, the families of those who died and survivors of the fire have campaigned for a new inquiry, citing evidence which later emerged to indicate that the fire had broken out in a store-room above the venue, which contained flammable materials. However, successive governments have refused, stating that it’s ‘not in the public interest’. Is it too much to ask for the evidence to be reviewed conclusively so that the families and survivors can finally have closure? It’s not about the money, it’s about knowing exactly what happened and drawing this shameful chapter of Irish history to a close.

This year marks the 35th Anniversary of the Stardust fire and those involved are still campaigning for what they feel is justice. As election day approaches, with yet another change in government, I wonder will the families of the 48 who never came home finally get the answers they seek? I hope so.

For more about the Stardust tragedy, check out the following sources:

Wikipedia

Irish Examiner 

Christy Moore performs his banned song ‘They Never Came Home’ about the tragedy:

 

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