Stardust campaigner and ‘fighter for justice’ Christine Keegan dies

Stardust campaigner and ‘fighter for justice’ Christine Keegan dies
Christine Keegan, outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Prominent Stardust campaigner Christine Keegan has died.

Mrs Keegan lost her teenage daughters Mary and Martina in the blaze that cost the lives of 48 young people in 1981.

The popular nightclub in Artane, Dublin, was destroyed in a blaze on Valentine’s Day in what is considered the worst fire disaster in the history of the state.

Mrs Keegan, along with her husband John and daughter who survived the fire Antoinette, have been tireless campaigners for a fresh inquest into the fire.

She died surrounded by family on Tuesday night after a battle with dementia.

One of the most well-known campaigners Mrs Keegan was a key part of the campaign to have a fresh inquest granted into the fire.

She has been described as a “rock” and “a hero and a fighter for justice”, by those who knew her, often describing the night she lost her children with a stoic sense of strength, detailing how they kept the news of their daughters’ deaths a secret from their surviving daughter while she recovered from her injuries in hospital.

Stardust campaigner and Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan told the Examiner her thoughts are with Antoinette and the rest of the Keegan family.

"Christine was a formidable woman who never gave up on her fight to seek truth and justice for her two daughters," she said.

Christine Keegan with her daughter Antionette Keegan join people gathered on the site of the stardust nightclub for a candle vigil and community service to remember victims of the Stardust Tragedy. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Christine Keegan with her daughter Antionette Keegan join people gathered on the site of the stardust nightclub for a candle vigil and community service to remember victims of the Stardust Tragedy. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

"What is terribly heart breaking is to think that she came so close to getting the answers she so desperately wanted. Christine’s passing is a tragic reminder to us all that almost four decades have passed since the fire and the families of the 48 who died do not have the luxury of time, they need the inquest to begin without delay. The State has left them waiting long enough, it is time that it did right by the families.”

Although a fresh inquest has been granted, the preparations have been put on pause due to Covid-19.

The death of Mrs Keegan has put fresh pressure on the need to expedite the inquest which is likely to be the biggest in the history of the state.

Few of the parents of victims are still alive, and there are fears that more will die like Mrs Keegan without seeing justice for their children.

Investigations into the fire showed that a number of escape routes from the dance hall were blocked as emergency doors were locked by chains. Concerns have also been raised about the investigation of the scene, which allowed politicians and media to walk through the building just hours later.

Despite findings of safety breaches, there were no prosecutions over the incident.

An initial finding of probable arson meant that the relatives of the dead and injured were unable to sue the club owners and operators for alleged negligence.

 

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