The 48 people who died in the fire at Dublin's Stardust nightclub on February 14, 1981 were unlawfully killed, a jury ruled today, Thursday, April 18.

The jury, which returned its verdicts on Thursday at Dublin District Coroner’s Court, said that the fire in the Stardust nightclub in Artane, North Dublin began in the hot press in the main bar, due to an electrical fault.

The time at which the fire began was not determined, but it was first seen between 1:20 am and 1:40 am.

The Irish Examiner reports that the jury said that the polyurethane foam used in the seating and the height of the ceiling in the west alcove of the venue contributed to the spread of fire.

The jury also found that the carpet tiles used on the walls contributed to the spread of the fire, and that at least some of the exit doors were locked, chained, or otherwise obstructed at the time of the fire. They said this impeded the ability to access emergency exits and exit through them for those who died.

The toxicity of the smoke, the heat of the fire, and the lack of staff preparedness in the club also affected the ability of the deceased to exit the building, the jury found.

The jury found that the club's emergency lighting system also failed during the fire and ruled that a combination of these factors caused and contributed to the deaths of the 48 victims. 

The 48 who never came home.

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

More than 800 people were inside the Stardust nightclub when the fire broke out in the early hours of Valentine's Day in 1981. 48 people were killed and 200 people suffered injuries.

Thursday's verdict was in stark contrast with the original verdict of the 1982 Keane Tribunal, which ruled that the fire was "probably" started deliberately. Families of the victims challenged that ruling and it was officially struck from the record in 2009. 

In 2019, Ireland's Attorney General ordered fresh inquests which began in April 2023.

The jury, made up of seven women and five men, reached the verdict after 11 days of deliberation. 

The verdict was handed down the day after the jury's foreman told Coroner Myra Cullinane that they could not reach a unanimous verdict. Cullinane said she would accept a simple majority of seven jurors.

Families of the victims cheered after the 12-person jury delivered the verdict in the Pillar Room on the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin on Thursday afternoon.

Cullinane, who said the inquests were the longest-running inquests in the history of the Irish State, said that the jury had heard very difficult testimony. 

Cullinane acknowledged the relatives' ongoing grief and said the inquests took place largely because of their persistence. 

Responding to the verdict, Taoiseach Simon Harris praised the families of victims for never giving up on justice. 

"The Stardust tragedy was one of the darkest moments in our history, a heartbreaking tragedy that occurred because of the lives that were lost, the families that were changed forever, and the long, drawn-out struggle for justice that followed," Harris said in a statement. 

"Today, we remember the 48 people who lost their lives, all those who were injured, and all those whose lives were marked forever by the tragedy.

"For over four decades, the families of victims have carried the weight of the tragedy with unwavering strength and dignity," Harris continued. "Their relentless pursuit of truth and accountability, their profound commitment to justice, even in the face of overwhelming challenges and setbacks, was not only a fight for their loved ones but a campaign to ensure that such a disaster never happens again.

"They never stopped searching for answers, for justice, and for some form of peace." 

Harris said the Irish Government will now consider the verdict in full along with the recommendations of the jury. 

48 people never came home from the Stardust nightclub in 1981.

Their families never gave up on justice for them. They never let Ireland forget them. They ensured they were never alone.

The country owes the families a debt of gratitude.

— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) April 18, 2024