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Charlie Bird to walk hand-in-hand with Stardust families as inquest meeting is held

‘I'm delighted Charlie will be there, he's been so good to the families all through the years’

Charlie Bird with Antoinette Keegan

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Charlie Bird will be walking hand-in-hand with the Stardust families as a hearing gets underway tomorrow to establish a time frame for the long-awaited inquest into the 1981 nightclub fire.

The former RTE reporter, who has strong links with the families of the survivors and victims of the disaster, will attend the hearing in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital.

Charlie, who recently made an emotional appeal for justice for the families in a video that was specially recorded for them, will join those at the meeting that's been called after months of delays.

According to Stardust campaigner and survivor Antoinette Keegan, there are three issues which need to be addressed at the meeting.

These include an agreement with the coroner on a date for the inquest to finally get underway, the selection of a jury as soon as possible, and the retention of the Pillar Room as a venue for the upcoming hearings.

“Hopefully, after tomorrow, we will finally have a date set for the inquest to start,” said Antoinette, who lost two of her sisters, Mary (19) and Martina (16) in the horrific blaze.

“I'm delighted Charlie will be there, he's been so good to the families all through the years.

“And even though he's facing a terminal illness, his support for us has never stopped. Despite what he's going through, he's always been there for us and we will be walking in there tomorrow hand-in hand.”

In the special video previously recorded for the Stardust families Charlie, speaking through his voice bank, said he had listened over the last year to the dreadful pain that they had gone through as they waited for the inquest to start.

With a lit candle bearing the number of the victims of the horrific 1981 blaze beside him, he said: “When the inquest was first announced we all thought that was going to be the breakthrough that the families had been waiting almost 40 years for.

“And more foot dragging started again. I want to join them now and the other relatives in pleading for the justice system and the coroner to try and move things on and get the inquest up and running soon as possible.”

He adds: “I would like to make one plea that the Stardust relatives are taken out of the agony and distress they have been going through for over 40 years.

“These amazing people (deserve) the justice that they are entitled to, so let everyone in the country extend the hand and heart of friendship to the relatives and let the judicial system finally give them the justice they're entitled to”

A planned protest was called earlier this month after the Coroner’s Court set a date of November 23 for a hearing into the nightclub disaster.

Speaking previously to, Antoinette said it was imperative that the coroner set a date for the inquest.

“We need the coroner to give us a start date now,” she said. “We’ve waited long enough.

“It’s actually a disgrace. This is the biggest inquest in the history of the State but at this rate it’s also going to be the longest.

“Why delay any longer? We’re ready to move, our legal team is ready, everyone is ready but we need a start date and the sooner the better, so we can all move on.

“It’s going to be horrendous,” Antoinette added. “We're going to hear things that we've never heard before (from the evidence) but it needs to be done.

“The Attorney General ordered the new inquest in 2019 and here we are going towards 2023 and not one single hearing has taken place.”

The High Court recently rejected a challenge by former Stardust manager Eamon Butterly to the new inquest into the deaths of 48 people at the Dublin nightclub more than 41 years ago.

He and his family owned the club at the time the fire broke out in the early hours of Valentine's Day 1981.

Mr Butterly wanted the court to rule that a verdict of unlawful killing was not open to the jury at the inquest and that the coroner should give the jury this direction at the outset.

However, Mr Justice Charles Meenan found a verdict of unlawful killing was permitted where no person was identified or identifiable as being responsible for the killing.

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