Friday the 13th turned out to be a tragically unlucky day for 48 young people who died in a 1981 fire that consumed a Dublin disco. It was St Valentine’s Eve and a crowd of youngsters had gathered at the Stardust Club in the Artane area of North Dublin for an evening of dancing and romance. When the fire was first discovered some time after midnight staff attempted to bring the blaze under control by sealing off the area, but this simply fanned the flames and drove them into the main ballroom where the disco was being held. With lights failing and walls and ceiling tiles emitting thick plumes of black smoke, panic erupted among the dancers.
In the stampede for the exits some were trampled underfoot while others collapsed in the noxious atmosphere.
While the patrons at another function in the club were alerted in time and successfully evacuated, the young dancers were less fortunate. The building which had promised a good night out turned with horrifying speed into a prison from which many of them never escaped; fire exits had been locked with chains and windows barred by iron grilles. Rescue workers afterwards described their helpless horror as they watched people inside claw vainly at the bars.
Although a tribunal of inquiry concluded that arson was the probable cause, no criminal charges have ever been laid in respect of the Stardust fire. The victims’ families have never accepted this finding and in the years since have resolutely campaigned for the government to re-open the inquiry. They believe that the club’s owners, a local business family with connections to prominent Irish politicians, should be held criminally liable for the disaster.
When was the Stardust Disco Fire: February 13 1981
Where was the Stardust Disco Fire: North Dublin, Ireland
What was the Stardust Disco Fire death toll: The 48 young people who died had an average age of just 19. Over 200 more were injured.
You should know: As recently as January 2009 a new and independent examination of the case concluded that the finding of arson by the original tribunal of inquiry was wrong. Evidence has emerged in the years since of certain flammable materials having been dangerously and inappropriately stored in the club’s premises.