Computer model in Stardust drive

Stardust relatives are working with technical experts to create a computer-generated simulation of the fire that they believe will demonstrate definitively how it started.

Computer model in Stardust drive

It is part of the families’ plan to ramp up their campaign for a fresh public inquiry as the 37th anniversary of the disaster approaches on February 14.

Beginning this week, the families will mark the 48 days leading up to the anniversary with a social media campaign remembering each of the 48 people who died, highlighting one a day in alphabetical order.

They are also preparing for judicial review proceedings in the High Court, challenging the report produced by retired Judge Pat McCartan in November in which he concluded there were no grounds for a new inquiry into the fire.

And they have teamed up with the Institute for Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology at Ulster University in Coleraine to create a computer model of the fire illustrating their theory about how the fire began and spread.

Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee said while the McCartan report had been a huge blow to the families, their determination was undiminished.

“The fight goes on. All over Dublin there were empty seats at the table this Christmas — our loved ones who have missed 36 Christmases,” said Ms Keegan. “We don’t forget them and we won’t let this go until we have justice for them.”

The fire at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin during the Valentine’s Night disco in 1981 killed 48 mainly young people and injured hundreds more.

A tribunal of inquiry established shortly afterwards concluded the cause of the fire was probably arson and that the blaze began in an area of seating, although the tribunal chair, Mr Justice Ronan Keane, acknowledged there was no hard evidence to back this theory.

His finding was eventually overturned in 2009 after years of campaigning by the families but the report, by barrister Sean Coffey, that led to the arson finding being removed also concluded the cause of the fire would not be determined by a fresh inquiry.

However, the families’ own research points to the fire starting overhead in the roof space of the building where cleaning fluids and other flammable products were stored.

The electrical system at the premises had been previously criticised for being overloaded, many of the fixtures and fittings were made of flammable materials, and key exit routes out of the building were blocked or ended in locked doors, preventing the victims from escaping.

The owners of the building were able to claim substantial compensation because of the arson finding.

Judge McCartan’s report, the third official report into the fire, criticised the dossier presented by the families as confused and unprofessional but the families argue they are not professional investigators.

They say they were assured the necessary professional expertise would be consulted for Judge McCartan’s report. They say this did not happen and they also say key witnesses were not questioned.

Ms Keegan, who lost two sisters in the blaze in which she herself was injured, and whose father died early after vigorous campaigning for the victims caused his health to suffer, said she felt public support for the campaign was growing.

“There are a lot of younger people who are only getting to know the story now and they are shocked at what happened and there are people who believed the official line at the time who have come to realise how wrong it was,” said Ms Keegan.

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