Family hope Stardust inquest will provide 'long overdue answers'

Josephine Glen’s sisters also told how they initially thought she was going to be okay and were “elated” because she had very few burns on her body.
Family hope Stardust inquest will provide 'long overdue answers'

Fiona Magennis

The family of a teenage girl who died in the Stardust fire have said they hope the new inquest will provide “long overdue answers” to what happened that night.

Josephine Glen’s sisters also told how they initially thought she was going to be okay and were “elated” because she had very few burns on her body.

However, they were heartbroken when the 16-year-old died five days after the fire when her life support machine was turned off.

On Tuesday, her sisters Sheena and Alison told how they sat with their sister, who they called Jo, every day, talking to her and “praying that she would come back to us”.

The sisters gave a moving account of the teenager at the beginning of the second week of the inquest which took place today in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital, where families continued to give pen portraits detailing the lives of their loved ones the effect their loss has had on those left behind.

“My aunt remembers lying in the bed beside my mam each night while my mam cried and prayed and pleaded with God not to take her from us,” Sheena said.

“Sadly, this was not to be, and the life support machine was turned off on 19th February 1981, when they told our mother that there was nothing else they could do for Jo. We believe this was due to the amount of toxic smoke she had inhaled which shut down all of her vital organs after starving them of oxygen.”

Sheena told how Jo was a “happy, kind, loving and sociable person” with lots of friends, some of whom she was out with that night.

She said their brother, William, remembers Jo as their mother’s “right hand”, always preparing the dinner if she was home first and being “a second mam to us all, always smiling and happy”.

The inquest heard Jo went to work at 14 years old, as soon as she left school and contributed the majority of her wages to the household, to help their Mam, who was a single mother of four children.

Alison told the Coroner’s Court she was a year younger than Jo, and they grew up “more like twins than sisters”.

She remembered Jo as a “beautiful girl”, who was kind, loving, thoughtful and fun to be with.

As they got a bit older, they went dancing together to the local teen disco and were best friends as well as sisters, Alison said.

“Jo always looked out for me in different ways, paying for me to go different places before I was working myself.”

Alison told how, 40 years on, she still feels guilty about the events of February 13th, 1981.

She said Jo was quiet and gentle and hated any sort of confrontation, “so I always stood up for her and looked out for her”.

“I wasn’t there on the night of the Stardust and still live with the guilt of not being there for her that night,” she said, adding: “Love you and miss you Jo”.

Sheena told the Coroner’s court that although she was just ten when Jo died and didn’t have long with her sister, her memories of Jo are “all good”.

“I remember her asking me if she looked okay on the night she went out to the Stardust. That was the last time I saw her alive. She looked beautiful,” Sheena said.

She said the day after the fire was spent “going from hospital to hospital, looking for Jo” and told how their brother William, who was 17 at the time, had to go through each hospital, seeing all the survivors, some of whom were very badly burnt.

It was later that evening that a family friend who worked at Jervis Street said there was a girl there matching Jo’s description.

“My brother went to identify Jo and when we saw her with very few burns on her body, we were elated,” Sheena said. “We thought that she was going to be okay. However, Jo was on a life support machine for five days and never regained consciousness.”

She said all of their lives changed following the Stardust fire, their mother “understandably fell apart” and “things at home were never the same again”.

“All of the laughter and happiness in our lives were replaced with tears and sadness”.

Sheena told of their sadness that Jo never got to meet any of her eight nephews or her niece or to have any children of her own.

Their mother, who passed away six years ago, had problems with her heart after Jo died, and the family believe this was because her heart was broken, Sheena said.

“Not a day goes by that we don’t think about Jo and wonder what life would have been like if she hadn’t been taken from our family over 40 years ago. We still miss her every day and will continue to miss her for the rest of our lives,” she said.

“Jo’s life was cruelly cut short as a direct result of the Stardust fire and forty years on, we still have no answers as to how or why the fire broke out that night.

"We hope and pray that this inquest will give us those long overdue answers that should have been a priority for the Government 40 years ago so our sister and our mother can finally rest in peace.”

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