Irish PM Simon Harris apologises to families for their 'living nightmare' over Stardust nightclub fire

The Irish premier has apologised on behalf of the state over the 1981 Stardust nightclub fire in which 48 people died.

A decades-long fight for justice culminated last week in an inquest finding that they had all been unlawfully killed in the Dublin tragedy.

Taoiseach Simon Harris said the state had failed families when "you needed us most" - and politicians stood in applause in parliament to acknowledge family members in the public gallery.

"I know you were forced to endure a living nightmare which began when your loved ones were snatched from you in a devastating fire," Mr Harris said.

"I am deeply sorry you were made to fight for so long that they went to their graves never knowing the truth," he added.

"Today we say formally and without any equivocation, we are sorry.

"We failed you when you needed us the most, from the very beginning we should have stood with you but instead we forced you to stand against us."

Mr Harris said he hoped the inquest finding and Tuesday's apology could help "end the neglect of 43 years waiting and fighting for the only thing you ever wanted, the truth".

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The taoiseach also met more than 70 people affected by the fire on Saturday to apologise.

The inquest ruling 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.

Read more:
How Stardust was seared into Irish consciousness

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said today that the "big lie" the fire had been caused by arson "smeared" and "criminalised the victims and survivors".

"It was a lie that devastated families and further traumatised survivors," she said.

"To this day those families and survivors still ask who crafted that lie? Who spun it, who spread it and why? What was their motive? And who were they protecting?

"Forty-three years on and they still don't have the answer to those questions."