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tragedy Daughter of late Stardust campaigner says 40th anniversary will be 'heartbreaking' without her

"She had done so much to fight for justice for the 48 and her last words were ‘when is the inquest going to start’."

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Antoinette, who lost sisters Mary and Martina, with mum Christine

Antoinette, who lost sisters Mary and Martina, with mum Christine

Antoinette, who lost sisters Mary and Martina, with mum Christine

The daughter of Stardust campaigner Christine Keegan, who passed away last year, has spoken of the pain of her loss as the 40th anniversary of the horrific fire approaches.

This weekend, Antoinette Keegan, who had fought alongside her mother and others for justice for the 48 victims of the 1981 disaster, will attend a series of poignant commemorative events that will be held in Dublin.

The Archbishop of Dublin will say mass at Bonnybrook Church located near the scene of the blaze in North Dublin on Sunday morning that will be live-streamed.

Families and victims will then take part in a gathering at the scene of the fire in Artane where they will sing the Christy Moore song ‘They Never Came Home’ which was written about the tragic events of Valentine's Day in February 1981.

For the first time in 40 years, Antoinette will be marking an anniversary without her mother, Christine, who had never given up the fight for justice.

Ms Keegan, who lost two of her other daughters in the tragedy, Mary and Martina, first fell ill last Valentine’s Day and passed away in July 2020.

“We actually found out on Valentine’s Day she was sick,” Antoinette, who was also injured in the blaze, said.

“It's just going to be really tough for the whole lot of us because it still hasn't sunk in that my mam is not here. She had to fight hard all her life.

“She had suffered for 40 years from injustice and at the end we wanted to ensure she got everything she deserved. One of her wishes was that she didn’t want to go to hospital.

“They wanted her to go to the hospice in Raheny but we kept her here in the house and she was in the sitting room with everyone around her, family, her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and at the end we were all there for her.

“It was a horrible year last year and now this year, coming up to the anniversary and being without her is going to be heartbreaking. She had done so much to fight for justice for the 48 and her last words were ‘when is the inquest going to start’.

“Sitting at the end of her bed, I kept telling her, ‘it’s happening soon mam'. At that stage we didn't know when it was happening so I to kept saying to her, ‘mam, it’s happening soon’. And three weeks after she passed away they announced when the inquest was going to start.

“And I said to myself, ‘that’s my mam, after doing that for us, from heaven'. She’s still helping, even though she is not here. I still feel her at my right hand, telling me what to do and what not to do.

“Some of her sayings I’ll hear in my head. Whenever I get annoyed at the government over the latest delay I hear her words, ‘don’t get angry, get even’. And ‘the truth is going to come out, it always comes out’. ‘Don’t worry, everything is going to fall into place’.

“Believe me, I still talk to her and I feel that she is listening to me.”

A 633-page report that was published in June 1982 from a tribunal set up to investigate the circumstances of the blaze was roundly dismissed by families.

One of the most troubling findings of Justice Ronan Keane's report was the conclusion the fire was "probably" started deliberately. A finding that the families of the Stardust victims say labelled each dead child a suspected arsonist.

In October of last year a new Stardust inquest began in Dublin District Coroner’s Court as an investigation into the cause of death of each of the 48 young people, as well what caused the fire, and the actions of the State in the years afterwards.

New inquests into these deaths followed a decision in 2019 by the Attorney General that new inquests were in the public interest and in the interest of justice. After starting late last year they will recommence later this year after delays.

At one of the preliminary hearings, the coroner expressed her condolences to the family and friends of Eugene Kelly, another Stardust campaigner who had also passed away last year.

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Eugene

Eugene

Eugene

Mr Kelly's brother Robert was 17 when he died in the fire at the Stardust Ballroom. Mr Kelly had been involved in the campaign by families to have the inquests reopened.

Antoinette revealed that they have created a video that will be released this week with the images and names of almost all the victims for the first time, which will be posted on their Facebook page.

“For the first time in almost 40 years we will have almost all the victims portrayed,” she added, “as our loved ones, who were human beings and how for the last 40 years they have been forgotten about by those in power.

“The Stardust wrecked my dad’s life and it wrecked my mam’s life,” she added. “It wrecked all our lives and we’ve being living in the Stardust for the last 40 years.”

On Sunday Antoinette will attend a socially distanced gathering of families at the site of the fire where they lay down a rose for each victim of the fire, 48 in all, while the names of the dead are read out.


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