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Message from the Editor: Verdict of unlawful killing in Stardust inquests was long overdue

Inquests 43 years after Stardust fire raise uncomfortable questions about whether all citizens receive equal treatment before the law

Our biggest story of the week was the jury’s verdict in the inquests into the deaths of 48 young people in the Stardust fire on Dublin’s northside in 1981.

For the families of those who died, nothing can compensate for their loss and suffering. But the verdict of unlawful killing is a long overdue official acknowledgment of what really happened on that terrible night in Artane. The question of why it took more than 43 years for them to get that acknowledgment raises uncomfortable questions about whether all citizens of this State receive equal treatment before the law.

Social Affairs Correspondent Kitty Holland has followed the story for years. Her detailed reporting on the 122 days of hearings and her many interviews with the families informed this forensic narrative, including new testimony, of all that had happened since the fire broke out a little after 1am on St Valentine’s night. It was published on minutes after the verdict was read out, and I recommend taking some time over it.

Miriam Lord was there to describe the reaction to the announcement: “God, but it was so emotional. Deeply powerful, compelling scenes. Jurors cried. Lawyers cried. Staff from the coroner’s office cried. Journalists cried.”


Legal Affairs Correspondent Mary Carolan charted the tortuous sequence of inquests, investigations and tribunals of inquiry which brought us to this point, contrasting the legal support the family received during this inquest with the way they had been treated in the past.

If you haven’t yet read them, I’d also recommend the pen portraits of the victims which we published over the course of the inquest, based on the testimonies of their loved ones. More than anything else, they give a true sense of the lives that were cut brutally short.

We have stories to sate every appetite on this weekend. Northern Correspondent Seanín Graham has a revealing piece on how Northern Ireland’s doctors are being enticed to work south of the Border, where they can earn more than twice as much. Examining the struggles of young families to buy their own homes, Jack White speaks to a couple who lived on €20 a week and “binge-saved” 90 per cent of their salaries to try to make up a deposit for an apartment. “It’s disheartening when you’ve already lived alone, you’ve gotten married, you’ve had the baby and you’re in this financial situation where it’s impossible to save a deposit and pay rent,” 29-year-old Shauna McNulty says. “You become a teenager again.”

It’s a weekend of strong interviews. Washington Correspondent Keith Duggan met Salman Rushdie in New York; the resulting piece is a remarkable and moving account of how one of the world’s best-known novelists dealt with the aftermath of the stabbing attack that almost killed him and left him with life-altering injuries. Rushdie has written about the experience in his new book, Knife, which is reviewed for us by Houman Barekat.

“[T]he book is called Knife because it is about a knife attack. But also: the book is a knife,” Rushdie tells Keith. “The book is my knife. I got caught up in a knife fight. And I needed a weapon of my own.”

Well worth your time are interviews by Róisín Ingle with the actor Nicola Coughlan, and by Niamh Donnelly with the writer Nuala O’Connor, who talks about being diagnosed with autism as an adult. The director Pat Collins has adapted John McGahern’s final novel, That They May Face The Rising Sun. He tells Donald Clarke about the experience.

This month we have expanded our Opinion offering with the addition of a new columnist and a new guest slot. In the first of his weekend columns, Mark O’Connell – the award-winning author of A Thread of Violence, Notes from an Apocalypse, and To Be a Machine – wrote about how AI has already become a tool of modern warfare. This weekend, his subject is the wellness guru Andrew Huberman. “It would be absurd to try to make a neuroscientist-podcaster into a symbol of everything that is wrong with a culture of hyper-individualist techno-capitalism,” Mark writes. “But despite his measured and rationalistic style, Huberman represents an almost mystical promise that a life can be tweaked – a supplement here, a breathing exercise there – into something approaching perfection.”

In the same section, Sally Hayden writes about her experience of being barred from entering Rwanda; Pat Leahy asks what we have learned about how Simon Harris will govern; and Jennifer O’Connell wonders whether surge pricing could take off in the restaurant business.

Finally, in Sport, our GAA writers Seán Moran, Malachy Clarkin, Denis Walsh, Gordon Manning and Nicky English look forward to the hurling championship, while Gavin Cummiskey reflects on the latest turns in the tragi-comedy that is the FAI’s never-ending search for a manager for the men’s senior team.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic


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