Stardust Inquests – Day 8 – Pen Portraits


Kenny, Mary – Angela Kenny


My name is Angela Kenny and I am the youngest sister of Mary Kenny. I was only

fifteen years old when my sister Mary was tragically killed in the Stardust fire on the

14th February 1981. I have lived with the tragedy from that night for over forty years

now. I was a happy-go-lucky youngest child in a very happy family. We were not

financially well-off but were very united as a family and happy. Our mam was there

every day looking after us with breakfast dinner and tea. We were always well cared

for and loved.


Mary was a much-loved daughter, sister and friend. She was a kind, funny and

popular girl who had just turned 19 the month before. She was the eldest daughter

of Sarah and Michael Kenny and big sister to Carol, Paul and Angela. Mary was a

wonderful big sister, and always looked after us in school. She was always there to

look after us and stand up for us when older kids picked on us. She was very

popular with her school friends, both in Primary and Secondary school. She

attended Maria Goretti Primary School in Bonnybrook and Colaiste Dhulaigh

Technical school Coolock. She had a lovely group of friends when she left Colsiste

Dhulaigh and they all remained friends. Some of them also died in the Stardust Fire

on that terrible night.

When she left school her very first job was working as a receptionist in Briggs &

McCrae in town. Mary loved her job, and was very well liked by the people she

worked with. She had only just started on her career and had her whole life ahead of

her. She was so young when she died but she was very determined to do her best in

any position and would have succeeded in any job she had in the future.

Unfortunately, she never got that opportunity. She was a very kind girl and was

very close to our elderly aunt that lived on her own in town. She would cycled all

the way from Coolock into town just to make sure she was okay and had everything

she needed. She did that trip every week for years. Our great aunt was devastated

when she came to our house the morning of the 14th February and found out her

darling Mary had died in the fire. She was never the same again and grieved for her

until the day she died.

Mary didn’t drink or smoke; her passions in life were dancing and fashion and she

would look forward to going to The Stardust nightclub on a Friday night just to

dance all night with her friends. To pursue this love of dancing, she had just bought

a new pair of dancing shoes for the lessons she was taking. She also loved music,

Queen, Marc Bolan (T Rex) & Barry Mannilow were her favourite groups and she

followed Leeds United football team.

On the Friday evening before she left home for the last time, we were all sitting in

the kitchen with our mam laughing and talking about who had received Valentine’s

cards. Mary was sitting with me guessing who had sent me my first Valentine’s card.

I wanted her to help me write a valentines card because she was older and knew the

verses to use. She said she was getting ready to go out and she would help me in the

morning. She was trying to persuade Carol, our other sister, to go with her that

night. Fortunately, Carol was saving for a holiday she had booked with her friends.

She was very happy going out the door that night and called around for her friend

Mary Keegan. She said she would see us later.

They were our last happy memories of Mary.

Stardust Fire

Our nightmare started when Paul rushed in, distressed, at around 1.50am. We were

all in bed. We got up in a fright and he was shouting repeatedly to ask if Mary was

home. From that time on, our lives were never the same. I remember it was bitterly

cold, frosty and dark out and we had to throw on whatever clothes we could find.

We didn’t have a car, so we had to walk all the way to Coolock Garda station in the

cold, not knowing what had happened. The Garda station was in chaos with

countless people looking for news of their loved ones. At that time no one had any

idea what tragedy had happened to their friends and family. We were told by the

Gardai to go home and check with the hospitals. The hospitals had no record of

Mary. We had to wait at home until we heard some news. Our parents were

distraught with fear and my mother was checking with neighbours to see if anyone

had seen Mary. They did not know what to do. We were all hoping and praying that

Mary would walk through the front door.

A couple of days later, my sister Carol was asked to go to the city morgue to identify

Mary’s jewellery; a deeply upsetting task. She had only bought her a silver ring for

her birthday a few weeks before. She identified the ring and wristwatch she was

wearing that night and they were all black from the fire. A day later we were told

officially by the Gardai that Mary was one of the deceased. Our family could not

take it in, we were all in shock, totally devastated, and it slowly dawned on us that

we would never see our lovely sister again. A lot of what happened is hard to

remember as we were all in shock. The funeral was so sad I don’t know how we all

got through it.

Since then

Our dad died two years later. He was broken hearted over his eldest daughter’s

tragic and untimely death. Our mam’s life changed completely. She went from

having a happy family to losing her eldest daughter and her husband within two

years. She was left to pick up the pieces with a broken heart. She visited the grave

every weekend for years and never got over the loss. She was diagnosed with breast

cancer eight years later. She passed away in 2004.

Our sister Mary has missed so many family celebrations over the years and we have

missed her and what her life would have been like. There is always a sadness in our

family and we were always afraid as a family that we would lose our mother as well.

My sister is always overly protective of her children especially when they were

going out as teenagers. She always had that worry that something awful would

happen to them. Always worrying about them.

Our brother Paul who had gone to the Stardust dance that night still cannot talk

about it as he is still traumatised by what he saw. We just thank God every day that

he got out alive.

I feel it has affected me a lot over the years. I was so young at the time and would

give anything to go back to that night we were all laughing and happy and stop

Mary going to the Stardust dance.

It has affected all our lives over the years, we dread it every year when it comes

around to St. Valentine ’s Day reliving the tragedy, it only brings us back to that

awful night we lost our sister Mary.

Our mother passed away in 2004 without ever getting the justice her daughter Mary



We hope as a family that after these inquests our sister Mary and her friend Mary

Keegan and all the victims of the Stardust Tragedy can rest in peace and we as a

family can have closure after over forty years.

Marie Kennedy

These pen portraits have been incredibly difficult for us family members to write for many reasons. Decades of unprocessed grief, shock, and anger. The unanswered questions. And the memories; the good ones can often be as painful as the bad.

For me there was a particular challenge. My big sister Marie died 10 days before my 5th birthday. She was my Godmother and my best pal, and she went out one night and never came back. So I have very few memories to contribute. It’s difficult to write about what someone was like in life when the few memories you have are not readily accessible, too clouded by sadness, and the passing of 42 years. I’ve been unfairly cheated out of so much. But then we all have.

What I do I remember very clearly though is the feeling I got from her; warm and caring, lively and fiercely protective. 

With such limited information of my own, I reached out to the family for more. Brothers and sisters, and parents. I didn’t get a huge amount back which wasn’t unexpected. For some it’s just too upsetting. Like I said, the good memories can be as painful as the bad. But their silence told me everything. I could feel the weight of it, like a noiseless deafening scream.

What I did get from them though was an image of a kind-hearted and fun-loving person, a larger than life personality with a smile to match and it tied exactly with the feeling I have.

The image came into sharper focus when I reached out to extended family and friends and asked them to send some of their memories. The same words came up over and over. Beautiful. Warm. Caring. Funny. And the smile – everyone mentioned her smile.

Marie was a Christmas baby. Born exactly a week before Christmas Day, the family tradition of putting up the Christmas decorations on her birthday started then, and continues to this day. She was christened Mary after our Granny Kennedy but we never called her that – that was far too serious a name for such a character.

She had an enormous love of music, singing, and dancing from a very young age. Our Granny used to mind her when she was a toddler and would always play records for her. She loved a song by Pat Boone called Speedy Gonzales. He begins one of the lines “Hey Rosita” in a very questionable Mexican accent and Marie would have fits of giggles and our Granny would have to play it again and again and again.  She was dancing almost as soon as she could walk, and started going to Irish dancing lessons when she was around 4. She loved it, won lots of medals and eventually took part in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Irish dancing her way across O’Connell Bridge in the freezing cold and pouring rain. Her legs were purple from the typical Paddy’s Day weather but she had a ball all the same. She used to sing songs to entertain the family, and when her Grandparents took her on holiday to Butlins they entered her in a singing competition. She won, of course. She was forever making up dance routines and teaching them to us younger ones and our friends. One of our cousins specifically remembers her lining us all up to teach us how to sing and dance to The Hucklebuck. Disco music was her really her thing though. She loved the Bee Gees, the Jackson 5, Leo Sayer, and Abba. Her love of music and dancing was the reason she was in the Stardust on that night – she wanted to see the dancing competition. She was our Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only 17.

She had a love of fashion and worked at tailoring while she went to secretarial college. She used to come home from work with her cardigan covered in feathers. Like a lot of us she adored shoes and would spend her pay on them. I remember using her high-heels to sit my dolls in, pretending to drive them around in their glamorous shoe-cars. She once turned up at our grandparents house wearing a pair of men’s steel toe-caped shoes. Our Granny said “Jesus Mary and Joseph Marie, what have you got on your feet”. Marie laughed at Granny tutting and shaking her head and told her “this is the fashion Nana”. Our Grandad looked over his newspaper and said “leave her alone Mary, she looks great”. She looked glorious in her  Aran jumper and silver jewellery, with her beautiful black hair and mischievous green eyes.  Of course then we all wanted an Aran jumper, and our poor Mother was tormented knitting them for us. 

She was cheeky, fun-loving and mischievous. She would hug our Mam from behind and call her Patsy. The two of them would smile at each other and our Mam would say “what are you looking for?”. When our cousin came to visit from London she would bunk off work so they could have fun days out in town. She pierced her friend’s ears – they were crooked. She also accidentally cut her fringe off. We have a great photo of her staring down the camera with a look that would turn you to stone, only she’s wearing a pair of underpants on her head.

She was the oldest of the six of us and she always looked out for us. She was our best pal but we knew she wasn’t to be trifled with – she was in charge and we knew it. She was the ultimate big sister.

I was going to write a whole section about the night Marie died. About how our parents found her in Jervis Street Hospital and our Mam recognised her by her feet. How our Dad and Grandad went to officially identify her the next day and came out forever changed. How her loss destroyed our family. But in the end I decided not to. Marie has been lost in the smoke and devastation of the Stardust for too long. The decades-long fight for answers has taken far too much from us already. So today we’re we are taking her back and remembering her life. We are reclaiming her from the darkness and despair and bringing her back into the sunlight where she belongs. She’s our sister, daughter, sister-in-law, niece, aunt, great-aunt, cousin, and friend. She’s our Marie.

(Ms Kennedy is represented by Tom Brabazon of Brabazon Solicitors)

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