Stardust fire inquest: 48 people who died in Dublin nightclub blaze were unlawfully killed, jury rules

All 48 people who died in a nightclub fire in Dublin 43 years ago were unlawfully killed, a jury has concluded.

The blaze in the Stardust club in Artane, north Dublin, on Valentine’s night in 1981 was the largest ever fire disaster in the history of the Irish Republic.

Most of the victims were under 21, and a further 200 people were injured in the fire.

The first inquest ruled the cause of the fire was arson – but the families refused to accept it, and the verdict was dismissed in 2009.

After years of campaigning by the families, the then-attorney general granted a fresh inquest in 2019.

The longest running inquest in Ireland, directed by Ireland’s then-attorney general Seamus Woulfe, opened last year, sat for 122 days and heard the testimony of 373 witnesses.

The jury found that the fire was caused by an electrical fault in the hot press in the bar, and the blaze was first seen outside the building between 1.20am and 1.40am. Jurors said the fire was first seen inside the ballroom between 1.35am and 1.40am.

Polyurethane foam in seating, the height of the ceiling in a west alcove of the building and carpet tiles on the walls were contributory factors to the spread of the fire, the jury found.

They said that lack of visibility due to black smoke, a lack of knowledge of the layout of the building, toxicity of the smoke and/or gases, the heat of the fire, failures of the emergency lighting system, lack of staff preparedness, and the speed of the spread of the fire all impeded people escaping.

Also asked whether any of the deceased were impeded in their ability to exit due to locked, chained or otherwise obstructed exits, the jury said “yes”.

Asked whether this was a contributory factor in any of the deaths, the jury also said “yes”.

They further recommended improved reviews of building regulations.

The jury foreman said they had reached the same verdict into the deaths of each individual – that of unlawful killing. Majority verdicts were reached after 11 days of deliberation.

Some family members jumped to their feet and applauded the jury members at length, while some sat in their seats and were moved to tears.

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