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Monday 23 April 2018

DNA advances put end to false hopes of Stardust victim's mum

The Stardust tragedy claimed the lives of 48 young people in 1981. Among the victims was Eamon Loughman
The Stardust tragedy claimed the lives of 48 young people in 1981. Among the victims was Eamon Loughman

The mother of an unidentified Stardust fire victim held out false hope for years that her son was still alive until improved DNA techniques finally proved he had died in the disco.

The bodies of five victims of the Stardust fire were buried together in the wake of the tragedy in a single grave as they couldn't be identified in the aftermath of the blaze.

They were exhumed from St Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton, Co Dublin, in 2007 and sent to Britain for DNA analysis which finally allowed them to be buried separately.

In Charlie Bird's new RTE documentary, After The Headlines, Andrew Loughman said the question mark over the identity of the remains of his brother, Eamon, left his mother hanging on in the hope that he was simply missing.

"Without them being identified, my mother for years and years if there was a knock at the door or ring at the doorbell, she always thought maybe that was Eamon," he said.

"Maybe he banged his head, he went to hospital, got up, walked out, got a bus to the country, didn't know where he was, his memory gone.

"She lived thinking he could turn up someday because he wasn't identified, so it might not be him."

Closure

Advances in DNA testing techniques finally gave the family closure in 2007.

"We were delighted to get a bit of closure to the situation in that we would finally know where exactly he was," Mr Loughman added.

"My parents wanted to bury him with my other brother that died and we were able to do that."

The Stardust nightclub was in full swing when, at around 1.40am, a fire suddenly broke out on Valentine's Day, 1981. A total of 214 people were injured, 128 of them seriously, and 48 young people lost their lives.

The documentary reveals how many are still grieving and still fighting for justice and answers they feel they never received.

Antoinette Keegan, a survivor of the fire who lost her sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16), has never come to terms with the tragedy because of the lack of answers.

"I can't never escape it until I get the truth," she said.

"My two sisters were killed that night. I won't give up until the truth is out there."

The families' hope of finally receiving answers was dashed again earlier this year when they were told there were no grounds for a fresh enquiry.

Antoinette said she will never give up. "I don't think anyone who was in the building will be the same again," she said.

After The Headlines - Charlie Bird airs on RTE Two tonight, at 9.35pm

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