'They never came home': Poignant memorial plaque unveiled to honour Stardust tragedy

Emotions were high and many tears wept as families and survivors of the heartbreaking Stardust tragedy gathered to remember the 48 victims who lost their lives in a devastating fire in an Artane nightclub on Valentine's Day in 1981.

“They never came home”, read the plaque to victims of the Stardust tragedy.

It was unveiled at the site of the former Artane nightclub by victims’ families on Thursday. The memorial lists the names of the 48 victims, who died nearly 38 years ago. A candlelight vigil was also held with a rose laid down for each victim.

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The tragedy remains the worst fire disaster in the history of the State, killing almost 40 people and wounding 200, many of whom were from the Northside of Dublin.

In a video shared on Facebook, Charlie Bird said the Stardust families and friends were "a remarkable group of people."

"You epitomise everything that is the strength of what this country is about. Do not give up your fight. What happened on that night will never be forgotten. Do not give in, keep looking for the truth."

He criticised the lack of involvement from the State and for brushing the tragedy "under the carpet," and also said if the tragic event had happened on the other side of the Liffey "the State would have erected a memorial, and families would have gotten justice by now."

What happened in 1981?

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A 1981 tribunal of inquiry had found “the most probable explanation of the fire” was arson - which was always denied by the families of the victims.

However, that finding was formally removed from the public record in 2009 following a review of the evidence. Despite findings of safety breaches, there were no prosecutions over the incident.

Investigations into the fire showed that a number of escape routes from the dance hall were blocked and 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.

Fresh inquest

The families affected by the tragedy have been calling for a new inquest into the events that led to the fire for many years.

Those involved in the Justice for the Stardust campaign plan reportedly plan to appeal to the Attorney General with a fresh application over the coming weeks.

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan, who has been campaigning on behalf of the families, says the fight has gone on too long. "It's a shameful indictment of this country that the families of those who died in the Stardust have to fund and hang their own plaque on the site where their loved ones lost lives. 38 years on and still no justice," she wrote on Twitter.

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Main photo via Unsplash 

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