'Abandoned' | 

Actor Liam Cunningham says treatment of Stardust families after 1981 fire tragedy was ‘disgusting’

The Game of Thrones star revealed his own younger sister Maria was at the nightclub in Artane on the ‘horrific’ night in February 1981

Liam Cunningham

Liam paid tribute to 'fearless' Charlie Bird

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Actor Liam Cunningham has slammed the “disgusting” treatment of Stardust fire victims in a candid conversation with RTÉ’s Katie Hannon.

The Game of Thrones star revealed his own younger sister Maria was at the nightclub in Artane on the “horrific” night in February 1981.

"You know, I drove past the Stardust just before the fire happened, not long before that fire kicked off,” he recalled.

"And I remember getting into bed and hearing the popping of… I later found out, I think they were propane tanks.

"My dad hadn’t got a car at the time, and him and a couple of neighbours – the fathers – dived into one of the father’s cars and went off information, because all we had at that time was radio.

“The radio was on, it was live reports and they were saying, ‘there's three dead.

"Twenty minutes later, ‘there's five dead’. And the number kept going up... and the waiting, as you can imagine, was horrific because with every increase in the number, it got closer to the possibility that it was one of your own.

"So I hopped on the bike and I went straight to the Mater Hospital,” he told Hannon.

"And it was carnage. It was like Vietnam. There were squad cars arriving, ambulances arriving. People coming in with blistered hands.

"I remember being just overwhelmed in the middle of the night with the amount of things going on and the manic nature of it.”

He recalled watching one of the “hard boys” from his area walk into the hospital with “horrific, horrific” burns.

"The sight of this, this scary individual looking for help… and here’s the weird thing [a nurse] said to him,. ‘look, come over here. I'll look after you.’

"And he said the following, he said: ‘Look, I’m okay. There’s people worse than me, look after them first.’

Liam paid tribute to 'fearless' Charlie Bird

"This, you know, fearsome reputation and he did this. And the mess that made of my head… when your preconceptions of someone are just shattered.”

Forty-eight young people were killed in the shocking fire at the Stardust.

"That was a pretty bad night, but it just got impossibly worse for the victims’ families,” Liam continued.

"The first thing that everybody seemed to do was start finding excuses and trying to blame the people inside."

The Coolock native said it was “exactly like” what happened to the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, when 97 people were killed in a crush at the Sheffield soccer stadium in 1989.

Liam said the victims of were blamed, adding: “It took them so many years to be exonerated purely... because they were working class."

In conversation with Katie on the RTÉ Upfront podcast, he also described Charlie Bird making a “fearless” speech at the Stardust Memorial.

"He was fearless. Everybody was thinking it, but it took Charlie to say it. And Charlie said: 'if this had happened in Annabel’s or anywhere around Dublin 4 or Dublin 6, the inquiries wouldn't have been going on for 40, 50 years..."

Liam added: "People were abandoned. These working-class people were blamed. It was disgusting.

"And it's still going on, the disregard. So the people just felt swept under the carpet and were full of anger and quite rightly."

The new inquest into the deaths of the 48 victims of the Stardust tragedy is set to begin on April 19.

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