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Victims taken ‘out of the darkness and into the light’

The survivors and families of the Stardust fire victims have said “this day is for the 48” after receiving the verdicts from the inquests into the 1981 nightclub fire today.

Bridget McDermott, who lost three children in the fire – William, Marcella and George, was in court for the verdicts. Her daughter, Louise, paid tribute to her mother afterwards.

“Our mother is here, and we don’t know how she’s still with us, but she is and she was here today to get the unlawful killing (verdicts) of her three children,” she said.

“It was a very emotional day for all the families here, all of us. For 43 years we had to fight, and we shouldn’t have had to have done. None of us. We shouldn’t be here now; this should have been sorted and done long ago.”

Louise McDermott said: “I’d really just like to say to the 48 now that we’re taking you out of the flames, the darkness and the smoke of the Stardust and we’re bringing you back to the sunshine, and the light and the music, and you’re coming back to us, home.”

The Stardust fire memorial in Artane showing the portraits of the victims

Antoinette Keegan, whose two sisters Mary and Martina died in the blaze, said it was an “overwhelming day”.

Ms Keegan, who survived the fire, said: “This day is for the 48.”

Samantha Mangan, whose mother Helena died, attended every day of the inquests.

“I’ve had to for the last 43 years wonder why and what happened to my mam that night and today we’ve got justice for her, we got the truth and the truth is out there and we all know what happened that night,” she said.

Susan Behan, whose 21-year-old brother John Colgan died, said: “We had so many things to look forward to.

“But now I know what happened to him. For 43 years I’ve wondered why, why, why. Now I know. Now justice has been served for all of the loved ones, all of our 48 loved ones. And it is a monumental day for us. It’s very, very emotional.”

Calls for ‘meaningful public apology’ from State

Maurice Frazer, whose sister Thelma died in the Stardust fire, has called for a “meaningful public apology” from the State.

He described the findings of inquests into the deaths of the 48 killed as a “turning point”.

Mr Frazer said his family extend their heartfelt gratitude to the coroner, her team and the jury.

“For 43 long years we’ve been relentless in a quest for justice for our dear sister Thelma, her boyfriend, Michael and 46 others.

“We tirelessly battled against the barriers and the closed doors of Ireland’s political and justice systems, clinging to hope, even when it seemed futile. Finally, those doors were broken open,” Mr Frazer said.

He added: “Throughout this journey, families have endured the unbearable pain of losing parents, siblings and cherished friends, even decades later.

“For those decades, our hearts and minds have been shattered and the mental toll has been overwhelming and exhausting, persisting day after weary day.

“In 2009, the finding of the Stardust Tribunal 1981 of probable arson was finally removed. That’s 28 years later, 28 years of a loved one’s names smeared with a label of arson.

“This is why we the families need a meaningful public apology from the Irish state. Today marks a turning point, a step towards closure, healing, towards a future where justice prevails,” he said.

Solicitor for many of families, Darragh Mackin, praised the perseverance of the families

Coroner restored the ‘humanity’ of Stardust victims – solicitor

Solicitor Darragh Mackin of Phoenix Law who represents many of the families of the victims of the Stardust fire, commended “power of the people”.

“At a time of utter despair grieving mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, husbands and wives took up the reins in their battle for truth and justice for their loved ones,” he said.

“Today, the record has forever been corrected. Today the record reflects what these families have known for four decades, that the 48 young people killed in the Stardust were unlawfully killed.

“In 1981 these young people, inhumanely identified by a number, were stripped of their integrity and their dignity, stripped of their dignity by the very same state that had stripped them of their very basic human rights.

“The result was the criminalisation of victims and patrons. The pain and suffering of these families was relentless. Without truth and justice, those wounds would never heal. Their spirit was boundless. In the darkest days, they had hope.

“Dr (Myra) Cullinane restored their identity, she restored their humanity and most importantly, she restored their faith in the rule of law. The 48 that never came home have now come home. They’re at home in peace that justice has now been done and has been seen to be done.”

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