Families gather for anniversary of tragedy

BEREAVED families and survivors of the Stardust tragedy converged at the Dáil and the site of the fire disaster last night to mark the 26th anniversary of the tragedy.

The candlelit vigils continued until 2am, marking the time families arrived at the Stardust ballroom in Artane, Co Dublin, on February 13, 1981, to witness bodies being removed from the inferno.

Standing before a placard depicting a tribunal book with the words “botched evidence”, Eugene Kelly, whose brother Robert died in the fire, last night accused the Government of “endless broken promises and mind games”.

“We wouldn’t be here if the Government had kept its promises. We wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.

“We shouldn’t have to stand outside the Dáil on the anniversary but we have no other options,” he said.

The Wheelock family, whose son Terence was found unconscious in a cell at Store Street Garda Station and later died in June 2005, joined last night’s vigil as a show of support for “forgotten victims”.

In Artane, where once the Stardust ballroom stood, bereaved families and survivors of the tragedy gathered for a silent candlelit vigil.

Returning to the grounds for the first time since last year’s protests against the opening of a public house at the Stardust site, survivor Paul Nolan said families and survivors alike found it difficult to return to the place their loved ones had died.

“I’m doing it for my friends who never came out of the Stardust. I’m going to stay campaigning until the end, even if means waiting another 25 years,” he said.

“I just can’t understand why the Government are ignoring our submission which proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the fire was not arson.”

His frustrations were echoed by Carol Barrett, whose brother Michael died in the fire. She described as “very disappointing” the fact that attempts to open a new inquiry had stalled.

“If you were to turn the clock back to 1981, you have to ask why the Government got involved.

“This was probably the single biggest tragedy outside the Troubles. Why did the Government make it a political football?” she said.

After almost 26 years grieving “horrific deaths”, Ms Barrett said families were only now talking of how they came to clear out their loved ones’ rooms after the fire tragedy.

Antoinette Keegan, a spokeswoman for the Stardust Victims’ Committee reiterated her pledge to campaign for Labour and Fine Gael in the election in an effort to obtain a full inquiry into the tragedy.

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