‘You’re coming back to us, home’ – Stardust families react to verdict

The victims of the Stardust fire have been brought “out of the flames, darkness and smoke” and into “sunshine, light and music”, a relative of three of the people killed has said.

Families of those who died in the 1981 blaze gathered at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance after a jury in the longest-running inquest in Irish history found that the 48 victims had been unlawfully killed.

Bridget McDermott, who lost three children in the fire – William, Marcella and George – was in court for the verdicts.

Speaking to reporters, 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.”

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Lisa Lawlor, who lost both her parents in the fire, said the last 43 years had been ‘a battle’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

She added: “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.”

Lisa Lawlor was 17-months-old when her parents Francis and Maureen Lawlor died in the Stardust fire.

She said: “It has been a battle, to say the least, for the last 43 years.”

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Samantha Mangan, whose mother Helena died in the blaze, attended every day of the inquests (Brian Lawless/PA)

She added: “I was in nappies the last time I saw both my parents. They went to Stardust and they didn’t come home.”

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.

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Susan Behan, left, said justice had been served (Brian Lawless/PA)

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.”

Pat Dunne lost her brother Brian Hobbs during the tragedy. She said for years he was referred to only as the 29th victim.

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Pat Dunne spoke about her brother Brian Hobbs, who died in the fire (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Brian was number 29 for years, which was disgraceful,” she said.

“He’s now Brian Hobbs, which is very important for me. He will forever be Brian Hobbs, the baby of our family.”

Siobhan Kearney, whose brother Liam died 25 days after the blaze, said she felt “vindicated” by the verdicts.

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Siobhan Kearney praised the jury and the witnesses who gave evidence (Brian Lawless/PA)

She praised the jury and the witnesses who gave evidence. Ms Kearney also paid tribute to those involved in the response to the fire.

“There was a lot of heroes there that night that helped and that showed the type of people that were in that club that night – working-class people. May they all rest in peace.”

Maurice McHugh said he and his wife Phyllis lost their only child, 17-year-old Caroline in the “horrendous inferno” at Stardust.

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Maurice McHugh said the families would continue to campaign for justice (Brian Lawless/PA)

He paid particular tribute to Stardust campaigners Christine and Antoinette Keegan.

He added: “We’ll still continue on to campaign for justice for the families.”

Gertrude Barrett, mother of Michael Barrett, said the families’ campaign was a “mission”.

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Gertrude Barrett said she was grateful to the coroner (Brian Lawless/PA)

“When you’re driven by desire, there ain’t any boundaries. This day belongs to my son Michael and the 47 others that perished with him.

“We’re truly grateful to the coroner, all those legal people and those that stayed with us and prayed with us and have never given up – because I know I never did.”

In alphabetical order, those who died as a result of Stardust were Michael Barrett (17), Richard Bennett (17), Carol Bissett (18), James Buckley (23), Paula Byrne (19), Caroline Carey (17), John Colgan (21), Jacqueline Croker (18), Liam Dunne (18), Michael Farrell (26), David Flood (18), Thelma Frazer (20), Michael Ffrench (18), Josephine Glen (16), Michael Griffiths (18), Robert Hillick (20), Brian Hobbs (21), Eugene Hogan (24), Murtagh Kavanagh (27), Martina Keegan (16), Mary Keegan (19), Robert Kelly (17), Marie Kennedy (17), Mary Kenny (19), Margaret Kiernan (18), Sandra Lawless (18), Francis Lawlor (25), Maureen Lawlor (23), Paula Lewis (19), Eamon Loughman (18), Donna Mahon (17), Helena Mangan (22), George McDermott (18), William McDermott (22), Marcella McDermott (16), Julie McDonnell (20), Teresa McDonnell (16), Gerard McGrath (21), Caroline McHugh (17), James Millar (21), Susan Morgan (19), David Morton (19), Kathleen Muldoon (19), George O’Connor (17), Brendan O’Meara (23), John Stout (18), Margaret Thornton (19) and Paul Wade (17).