Taoiseach Simon Harris led the Irish Government's formal apology to the victims of the Stardust nightclub tragedy and their families today, Tuesday, April 23.

The apology comes just days after a jury ruled that the deaths of the 48 people killed in the nightclub fire in Dublin in 1981 were “unlawful.”

In the wake of the ruling on April 18, victims' families reiterated their call for a formal State apology.

The victims' families received a standing ovation in the Dáil on Tuesday ahead of the apology.

Addressing the victims' families in the Dáil, Harris said: “I know that there have been many, many times when you thought this day would never come. Over far too many, many years.

"I know that you were forced to endure a living nightmare which began when your loved ones were so cruelly snatched from you in a devastating fire.

"Their unfinished stories became your story. The defining story of your lives and the lives of your parents and other family members who left this life before ever seeing justice.

"I am deeply sorry that you were made to fight for so long that they went to their graves never knowing the truth.

"Today we say formally and without any equivocation, we are sorry. We failed you when you needed us the most. From the very beginning, we should have stood with you, but instead we forced you to stand against us.

He added: “I hope this is a moment when the State, which rubbed salt in your terrible wounds, starts to help you heal.”

The Taoiseach described each of the 48 victims, who he said were “beautiful people” who had “plans and dreams, their whole lives ahead of them.” 

Victims of the 1981 Stardust tragedy

Michael Barrett, 17, Richard Bennett, 17, Carol Bissett, 18, Jimmy Buckley, 23, Paula Byrne, 19, Caroline Carey, 17, John Colgan, 21, Jacqueline Croker, 18, Liam Dunne,18, Michael Farrell, 26, Michael French, 18, David Flood, 18, Thelma Frazer, 20, Josephine Glen, 16, Michael Griffiths, 18, Robert Hillick, 20, Brian Hobbs, 21, Eugene Hogan 24, Murty (Murtagh) Kavanagh, 27, Martina Keegan, 16, Mary Keegan, 19, Robert Kelly, 17, Marie Kennedy, 17, Mary Kenny, 19, Margaret Kiernan, 18, Sandra Lawless, 18, Francis Lawlor, 25, Maureen Lawlor, 26, Paula Lewis, 19, Eamonn Loughman, 18, Donna Mahon, 17, Helena Mangan, 22, George McDermott, 18, Marcella McDermott, 16, William McDermott, 22, Julie McDonnell, 20, Teresa McDonnell, 16, Gerard McGrath, 21, Caroline McHugh,17, James Millar, 20, Susan Morgan, 19, David Morton, 19, Kathleen Muldoon, 19, George O'Connor, 17, Brendan O'Meara, 23, John Stout, 18, Margaret Thornton, 19, and Paul Wade, 17.

The 48 who never came home. pic.twitter.com/ehTeNZPTj2

— Justice for Stardust 48 (@48NeverCameHome) April 18, 2024

The Taoiseach also acknowledged the many people who were injured in the Stardust tragedy, the staff at the nightclub, as well as the first responders.

He continued: "In such shattering circumstances, the expectation must surely be that the State comes to the aid of its citizens and supports them in the terrible aftermath.

"Instead, it is to our great and eternal shame that far from the warm embrace of a caring State, the Stardust families experienced a cold shoulder, and a deaf ear, and two generations of struggle for truth and justice.

"Instead, it is to our great shame that State processes heaped misery upon tragedy for the Stardust families.

"I am so deeply sorry your first bid for justice ended with suspicion being cast on those who had died or survived on that catastrophic night.

"With your pain and grief compounded by stigma and rejection, the families were forced to fight for decades to obtain the vindication you won last Thursday when the inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of your 48 family members.

"For all of this, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, I apologise unreservedly to all the families of the Stardust victims and all the survivors for the hurt that was done to them and for the profoundly painful years of struggle for the truth.

"I apologise to the families that those present on the night of the fire were wrongly criminalised through the allegation of arson which was an attack on their reputations.

"I say today every person there was innocent.

"I say today the truth is now known.

"Not only were they innocent – they were unlawfully killed.

"The Government accepts the findings of the Coroner’s Court and the recommendations of the jury."

The Taoiseach said the findings were formally noted at the Cabinet meeting earlier on Tuesday and that the relevant ministers have been asked to report back on the implementation of the recommendations.

He further said that he has asked his Department to "prepare proposals to appropriately commemorate the disaster, as requested by the families."

Concluding, the Taoiseach said: "The terrible reality is that we will never know for certain how many lives were ended by this tragedy.

"Beyond the 48 whose names we know, there were countless others whose lives were turned to ash on that terrible night. Their hopes and dreams were destroyed twice over.

"First by the fire, and then by the successive failures of the State to do what was right.

"And for that, I am truly sorry."

You can watch Taoiseach Simon Harris's full apology to the Stardust victims and their families here: