Stardust doorman denies kicking padlock off exit door on night of fire

Stardust Doorman Denies Kicking Padlock Off Exit Door On Night Of Fire
Mr Furley said he got his hand on the left side of the doors at exit five and felt the bar rising, so he knew someone was pushing it up. He said that after two attempts the door opened.  
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Ryan Dunne

A former Stardust doorman has told an inquest that witnesses were “wrong” in their statements about seeing a person who matched his description kicking the padlock off an exit door in order to open it on the night of the fire.

“I didn’t kick that door,” said John Furley, continuing his evidence to the jury in the Dublin District Coroner’s Court, during the inquest into the fire that killed 48 people when it swept through the Stardust nightclub in the early hours of February 14th 1981.


Mr Furley told Brenda Campbell KC, representing a number of families of the victims, that he first saw a seat on fire in the Stardust, and there was “a wave of smoke” the full width of an alcove coming right across the dancefloor.

Exit door

He confirmed to Ms Campbell the smoke seemed to be coming out of the air from the ceiling, and it was “thick black smoke”. He said that exit door five was still closed at this point.

"The ratio between smoke and fire didn’t seem right. The smoke was everywhere, you couldn’t see very far ahead of you. I could hear lads trying to open the door, pushing and kicking it, and I was shouting at them to shove the bars down,” he said.

Mr Furley said he got his hand on the left side of the doors at exit five and felt the bar rising, so he knew someone was pushing it up. He said that after two attempts the door opened.


Ms Campbell suggested that the reason that people were pushing the doors was because the push bars were not functioning properly.

“Yes, it’s possible, something was stopping them from opening,” replied Mr Furley, going on to say that he did not remember kicking the doors.

Ms Campbell said that another doorman, Gabriel O’Neill, had given a statement to gardaí that was an almost identical account to Mr Furley’s, but in this statement, Mr O’Neill said that he himself opened the door.

Ms Campbell said Mr O’Neill later changed his evidence, saying that when he got to exit five, he found it chained. She said Mr O’Neill gave evidence that he pulled the chain that secured the doors and saw it was locked, so he pulled a couple of times, but it did not give way.


Ms Campbell asked Mr Furley if he recalled a chain and lock on the door, to which the witness replied that he did not.

Mr Furley also said he did not recall “a gang” in front of the door who lifted a seat and used it to try and open the exit door, nor did he recall a skip tipping over spilling bottles on the floor.

Witness statement

Ms Campbell said that a witness had made a statement about seeing a bouncer at exit four who was pulling and banging on the door but failed to open it. The witness then ran to exit five, where she heard glass breaking and found exit five closed.

The witness said she saw a bouncer pulling the bar and kicking the door at exit five, but it did not open. Ms Campbell asked Mr Furley if there had been any other bouncer with him at exit five.


“I didn’t see any staff there,” replied Mr Furley, going on to confirm that the bouncer must have been either himself or Mr O’Neill.

Ms Campbell said that the woman had given evidence that the bouncer succeeded in opening the door by kicking it, to which Mr Furley replied that he did not remember kicking the door.

Ms Campbell said that two other women made statements about seeing a bouncer kicking a big padlock off the door, and it took him three minutes to burst the lock before they got out.

The witnesses identified the bouncer as living on the same street as one of the women, Greencastle Crescent, and Mr Furley confirmed that he had lived on this street.


Ms Campbell asked him if the witnesses were correct, to which Mr Furley replied: “They’re wrong, I’m positive.”

“I wasn’t kicking the door, and the account I gave was the truth,” said Mr Furley, going on to say he did not know who the bouncer was that the witnesses saw.

In response to a question from Michael O’Higgins SC, representing a number of families, Mr Furley said that he had never seen anyone letting their friends in for free through one of the exit doors.

“We haven’t had a witness yet who saw it,” said Mr O’Higgins.

Mr Furley went on to say that he did not know if Stardust manager Eamon Butterly was “very vexed” by people getting in for free, but he confirmed to Mr O’Higgins that Mr Butterly “didn’t like to be bested”.

Mr O’Higgins said that Mr Furley had made a statement in which he said that he believed both bars on the exit doors had to be pushed at the same time to open them, but this is not correct as you can open the door by pressing one bar.

To this, Mr Furley agreed that it was “fair to say” that he had not had much experience opening exit doors. He said that on a couple of occasions before the night of the fire, he tried to open one side and it would not open.

“Maybe because there were chains wrapped around it?” asked Mr O’Higgins, to which the witness agreed that this was possible.

The jury also heard evidence from Patricia Gallagher, who worked as a waitress in the Stardust. She said that the doors to exit five were locked when she got to them on the night of the fire.

She said that a skip on the premises had been knocked over and there were bottles on the ground, and people were falling because of the bottles. She said there were chains on the door, and “they were always on the doors”.

The witness was asked by Mr O’Higgins whether it was a matter of routine for the doors to have chains on them, to which Ms Gallagher replied: “Yes, because people were coming in and opening the doors and letting their friends in.”

She went on to confirm to Mr O’Higgins that she had never witnessed this happening, but there was talk of it

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