The Stardust fire: the anger and grief have not diminished over the years

The Stardust Fire: I hope the families finally get the answers they deserve

There is to be a new inquest into the Stardust tragedy. And not before time.

The families of those who died are as grief-stricken and angry now as they were when all those young people died, almost 40 years ago. Neither the grief nor anger are surprising.

What that dreadful night did to them, I cannot imagine.

But I know that every single journalist involved in the coverage of the disaster, was affected in a way that stayed with them, with us, for life.

Like those who died, many of us who ended up covering the fire had been out partying on the night. It was Valentine’s weekend after all.

Indeed, one senior colleague arrived into the office, feeling a little the worse for wear and immersed himself in a cold bath in a little used bathroom near the canteen in Independent House. He subsequently did a tremendous job.

As ever, the first job given to those of us who had been called in from home on a Saturday morning, was to visit the homes of the bereaved.

I was given a list and went about it my usual way – by calling to neighbours first and asking them to approach the family on my behalf.

None turned me away.

All chatted, told me about the child they had lost and gave me a photograph to take back with me.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

When I got to the last of, I think, five or six families assigned to me, I told my taxi driver I couldn’t do it. I was shattered, not from tiredness, but from taking on board some of the grief I had encountered.

He said he’d do it. 

He got of his car, went to the house next door and then, with the neighbour to the house of the bereaved.

He returned to the car ten minutes later with the information I should have got, the photograph I should have got and a message of understanding from the family. God help us they felt sorry for me.

And when those few days were over and we, by the way, ALL believed the doors had been locked and bolted, began the funerals.

I remember being in a taxi in Artane, stopped at lights, and hearses crossing in front of us.

I don’t know how many funerals I covered. A few.

The last was that of the Keegan sisters, Mary and Martina.

It was gut wrenching. It was impossible not to feel the pain of the family.

I had stood close to the grave so that I could hear the priest.

And so when I ended up sobbing, with tears running down my face, it was either a family member or friend who placed a hand on my arm and told me it was ok to cry.

I apologised. I explained that I was only a reporter from the Herald. 

She shook her head.

She said she imagined it wasn’t easy for me either.

My God. I got sympathy.

And what it did was show me the quality of the people, the families, the Dubliners who were suffering that day.

We lost 48 young people, future Dubliners, kids who would have made a massive contribution to the city if their families are anything to go by. 

I hope they get the truth.

I hope the guilty are, at least, identified.

I hope there are no more half-truths and three-quarter lies.

And I will, as I have done for 38 years, pray for them. 

2 thoughts on “The Stardust fire: the anger and grief have not diminished over the years

  1. Maurice Frazer

    I hope you dont mind i shared this on my facebook page


  2. Debbie fox

    The people from coolock artane and surrounding areas are the salt of the earth type of people and they never deserved to be treated like this for nearly 40 years the truth has to come out now the whole truth and nothing but the truth


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