tragic blaze | 

Stardust orphan Lisa Lawlor says she wants her mum's grave opened to 'find out for sure it’s my mother’

Lisa Lawlor is concerned there was a ‘mix up’ with her mum’s burial after the Artane tragedy

Lisa Lawlor lost both her parents when they died on Valentine’s Day, 1981. Photo: Damien Eagers

Conor Feehan

A Dublin woman who was orphaned as a result of the Stardust fire that killed 48 people in 1981 is seeking to have her mother’s remains exhumed to make sure they are hers.

Lisa Lawlor was only one-and-a-half-years-old when her parents Maureen and Francis got a babysitter so they could go to the Valentine’s dance at the Stardust venue in Artane. But both her parents were killed in the inferno.

Her father had initially escaped the blaze, but he went back into the burning building to try and save Maureen.

Lisa Lawlor and her two children Frankie (8) and Lennon (4) at the graves of her parents who died in the Stardust Tragedy in 1981 when Lisa was 17 months old

“They are buried in adjacent graves, but not in the same grave, and over the years I’ve developed a suspicion that it’s not actually my mother in the grave. I think there was a mix-up, a mistake,” Ms Lawlor told the Irish Independent.

“My mother was burned beyond recognition, and I don’t know what criteria the authorities used at the time to identify her. I now want the grave to be opened so that the person’s remains can be tested, to know for sure if it is my mother or not.

“I don’t know what is telling me that the person in the grave is not my mother. I can’t explain it. I just have an instinct. This is the last thing I owe my parents — to find out for sure that my mother is in that grave.

“There were a lot of mistakes made at the time, and it’s not anybody’s fault, but I need this to happen. It’s just a gut feeling, and it won’t go away. It is coming between me and living the rest of my life. I will get this done, I’m not going anywhere.”

She added: “My parents were married, but they were not put in the same grave. They were put in adjoining graves. Something is screaming at me that a mistake was made, and there is only one way to find out if that body is my mother’s.

“If it turns out to be her, my mind will be at rest. If it’s not I will be heartbroken but I will come to terms with it, and then we can set about finding my mother and putting things right. That is my aim. That is what I need to do. I go to the grave, but it doesn’t speak to me the way my father’s does. I try to put it to the back of my mind but it just won’t go away,” Lisa explained.

Ms Lawlor has now been in touch with the solicitor representing Stardust families to apply to have the grave exhumed.

Maureen and Francis Lawlor pictured with daughter Lisa

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Helen McEntee has now received Government approval to change the law, so that jury members who are selected to hear the upcoming inquests into the Stardust deaths can be assured they will be paid by their employers while fulfilling the role. It is hoped the changes to legislation can be put in place before the summer recess.

This will allow the Dublin Coroner to seek the assistance of the Courts Service in selecting a jury for the Stardust inquests, and will allow the jury selection process to operate in a similar way to civil and criminal court proceedings.

Concerns had been raised by victims’ families that the inquests, which may take months to complete, could be held up if jury selection was a difficulty. It is hoped the legislation to ensure that jury members continue to be paid by their employers, will make the process of jury selection less problematic.

“I had promised to address the concerns raised, particularly by representatives of the Stardust victims’ families, with regard to the empanelling of a representative jury,” said Minister McEntee.

“As the Stardust Inquests are anticipated to take some considerable time compared to other inquests, I am also making provision that employers would be required to pay the wages of employees summoned to serve on the Stardust Inquests jury,” she added.

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