Families of the victims of the Stardust tragedy, where 48 people were killed in a fire in a North Dublin nightclub on February 14, 1981, are calling for a State apology after an inquest’s jury ruled that the deaths were “unlawful.”

“We, the families, need a meaningful public apology from the Irish state,” Maurice Frazer, whose sister Thelma Frazer was among the 48 people killed in the Stardust tragedy, told reporters in Dublin on Thursday after the verdict was announced.

Frazer added: "Throughout this journey, families have endured the unbearable pain of losing parents, siblings, and cherished friends, even decades later.

"For those decades, our hearts and minds have been shattered, and the mental toll has been overwhelming and exhausting."

Alison Croker, whose sister Jacqueline Croker died that night, tearfully told reporters: “I feel vindicated today that we’ve got truth, we’ve got the justice.

“And now I think it’s time that the Irish State actually apologize to each and every one of us for the systematic abuse that we’ve been put through, having to relive this.”

The PA reports that Ireland's Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the families' call for an apology would be discussed at Cabinet.

Earlier on Thursday, a jury ruled that the deaths of 48 people in the fire at the Stardust nightclub in Dublin on February 14, 1981, were "unlawful."

More than 800 people were inside the Stardust nightclub when a fire broke out in the early hours of Valentine's Day in 1981. 48 people, aged between 16 and 26, were killed, and more than 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.

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.

Coroner Myra Cullinane, who noted that 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. 

Thursday's verdict prompted responses from Ireland's leading politicians. 

Taoiseach Simon Harris said in part: "The Government will consider this verdict in full and the recommendations of the jury. I want to acknowledge and thank the coroner, and her team and the jurors.

"48 young people never came home that night, but as Taoiseach I want to say this to their families; You never gave up on justice for them, you never let Ireland forget about them. They were never alone, and our country owes you a great debt for that."

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. pic.twitter.com/DNFR9sAf04

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

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: "This is a huge moment for the victims’ families, and an important day for the country as the Stardust tragedy is seared on the collective consciousness of the Irish people.

"The tenacity of those families and their success in securing this verdict at inquest has been a service to all."

For over 40 years, the families of the 48 young people who died in the Stardust tragedy have fought for the truth

The tenacity of those families and their success in securing today’s verdict at inquest has been a service to all.

My full statement: https://t.co/N4hfrHrBz8

— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) April 18, 2024

Minister McEntee, who said she sympathizes with the families, said in a statement that the Government will now consider the verdict and recommendations of the Jury.

Today is an incredibly difficult day for the families of the 48 young people who tragically lost their lives. Above everything I hope this outcomes brings them some comfort & that they feel they have finally found the truth #stardust pic.twitter.com/R7EmywO54U

— Helen McEntee TD (@HMcEntee) April 18, 2024

TD Mary Lou McDonald, the President of Sinn Fein, said in part: "Now each family has the comfort of knowing the truth of that night and why their loved one died.

"It has been a long and heartbreaking road for victims’ families and survivors.

"They have overcome countless, cruel obstacles and diversions, including those put up by the Irish State."

Justice has been a long time coming. Today it arrives. The verdict of Unlawful killing confirms what survivors, victims families & Dubliners have always know. 
The 48 young lives taken in the Stardust will be forever missed by those that love them. Now each family has the…

— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) April 18, 2024