What the Stardust verdicts could mean for Summerland - the Isle of Man's greatest tragedy

The Stardust fire shares similarities with the Summerland fire in the Isle of Man.

After 11 days of deliberations, a jury has ruled the deaths of 48 people who died in the Stardust nightclub fire was 'unlawful killing'.

A landmark verdict after many years of campaigning by survivors and bereaved families.

The devastating blaze at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, north Dublin, broke out in the early hours of Valentine’s Day in 1981 - taking the lives of 48 people and injuring hundreds more.

It was a devastating fire, and one that has crucial similarities with the Summerland disaster - the Isle of Man's greatest tragedy.

Stardust survivor Antoinette Keegan, who lost her two sisters in the fire, after the verdict returned. Credit: PA Images

Just eight years prior to the events at Stardust nightclub, thousands of people gathered at Summerland - the Island's esteemed leisure complex on Douglas Promenade.

At around 7:30pm on 2 August 1973, three young boys were smoking in a disused kiosk propped up against the outer wall of Summerland.

After discarding one of the cigarette's, the kiosk quickly became alight, causing a fire to spread undetected up the inside of the building.

Within 20 minutes, the fire broke through to the thousands of people inside, and spread across the entire complex, trapping people inside.

50 people died, and many more were injured.

Much to the heartbreak of survivors and bereaved families, a verdict of 'death by misadventure' was given to those who perished.

A verdict that a group of survivors and bereaved families are hoping to overturn, following in the footsteps of the Stardust campaign.

Jackie Hallam continues to campaign for an overturning of the Summerland verdicts, after losing her mum Lorna and best friend Jane. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

An initial inquiry into the Stardust tragedy found that 'arson' was the likely cause of the fire, but this was later quashed, kickstarting a campaign for justice as fresh inquests were ordered.

This eventually led to a new inquest launching on 25th April 2023, where a jury heard from a number of families, witnesses and experts.

The Stardust jury found that many fire exits were locked, chained or obstructed - mirroring various eyewitness accounts at Summerland.

The height of the ceiling and the materials used for the building were also found to be factors in the spread of the blaze, similar to the narrative of Summerland.

After more than 90 days of evidence and testimonies from 373 witnesses, the conclusive verdicts of 'unlawful killing' now act as a beacon of hope that the Summerland campaign could achieve the same.

Stardust fire campaigners gather outside court. Credit: PA Images

Following the news of the overturned Stardust verdicts, a spokesperson for the Summerland campaign released a statement.

"This is a huge moment for the families and friends of the 48 young people who died in the Stardust fire in Dublin in 1981," it said.

"The verdict of unlawful killing delivered today is a testament to their tenacity and determination to get truth and justice for their loved ones, despite many obstacles, including those put in their way by the state."

Members of the Summerland campaign group say they intend to continue fighting to overturn the 'death by misadventure' verdict, now with a successful campaign to spur them on.

Their statement ends: "Their fight took over 40 years. They did not give up and neither shall we."

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