Emotional | 

Charlie Bird tells families at Stardust vigil he will 'never forget that night'

"If the Stardust tragedy happened in some middle class area of this country, or indeed on the south side of Dublin, we would not be here today still trying to find out what happened on the dreadful cold February night"

Charlie Bird read out the names of the 48 victims at today's event

Conor Feehan

Families of the 48 victims of the Stardust fire have marked the 41st anniversary of the disaster vowing they will continue to seek justice for those who died and were injured.

At a vigil on the site of the fire in Artane on Dublin’s northside, veteran broadcaster and journalist Charlie Bird gave an emotional speech in which he said if the tragedy had occurred in south Dublin or in a middle-class area the answers that the Stardust families are seeking would have been answered by now.

He was invited to speak by the Stardust Committee because he has covered the story extensively since it occurred on Valentine’s night in 1981.

Mr Bird’s voice has been affected by the onset of motor neurone disease, but he addressed the families directly, and with the aid of a pre-recorded message that he was able to play on a tablet through the PA system in his own distinctive voice thanks to advances in technology.

Family members of some of those 48 people killed in the Valentine's Day Stardust fire, attended the 41st anniversary event at the site of the fire today. Pictured: Charlie Bird with Antoinette Keegan, who lost two sisters in the Stardust fire. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

“I will never forget that freezing cold night, it was early morning when I got here, and the scene I saw was now etched in my mind forever,” he said.

“I admire your courage and your bravery. When you look back, the relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday got a State apology, the Hillsborough relatives got some justice. To our eternal shame here is a group of relatives are still waiting for the truth of what happened on that night, 41 years ago.

“I have said this so many times before. If the Stardust tragedy happened in some middle class area of this country, or indeed on the south side of Dublin, we would not be here today still trying to find out what happened on the dreadful cold February night.

“So after 41 years you still have not got the answers and justice you deserve, and for as long as I can I will do anything I can to help you. I keep saying this. I really mean it. You are a most remarkable group of people,” Mr Bird added.

Flowers were laid in memory of those who lost their lives

He then read out the names of the 48 victims, and their relatives or friends approached the stage he was speaking from and collected a candle with the victim’s name on it.

Before he left the stage he said: “While I still have a breath in my body, I will continue to support you.”

Some relatives of those lost spoke as they collected candles.

“These people were real and they deserve some sort of justice. Imagine waiting 41 years to find out what happened. We want justice, and we want it now,” said Patrick McDonnell, brother of Julie McDonnell, who was 20 when she was killed in the fire.

He also told how his sister Lorraine had since taken her own life.

Antoinette Keegan, who lost two sisters in the fire, thanked Mr Bird for his continued support of the families, and ongoing friendship over the years, and expressed the support of the Stardust Committee to him and his family as he continues to adapt to his terminal illness.

Singer Christy Moore sang a song about the disaster that he recorded, and said he has stood side by side with the families in what has been an important part of his life.

Members of the group seeking justice for the Bloody Sunday families were also present to show their support.

In 2010 former Attorney General Seamus Woulfe granted permission for new inquests into the deaths, but those inquests have yet to be heard.

He said previous inquests in 1982 recorded how the deaths occurred but there was no reference to the surrounding circumstances, in particular the cause of the fire.

Still fighting for justice, and awaiting the new inquests, relatives at the site observed 48 seconds of silence after which members of Dublin Fire Brigade paid their own tribute with lights and sirens from a fire tender.

Charlie Bird, who joined them as they unfurled a large banner with the names and photographs of the victims, became very emotional as they all sang You’ll Never Walk Alone in tribute to the young people who never came home.

Earlier in the day Paul Lawless, the father of Sandra Lawless, who was 18 when she died in the fire, laid a wreath for all the victims at the Stardust Memorial Park in Bonnybrook a short distance from where the blaze occurred.

It is hoped that the new inquests into the deaths will begin in the coming months after a new venue was secured to hear them.

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