Today (14.02.2022), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation launched two memorials in honour of those who died of COVID-19 and the victims of the Stardust tragedy on the grounds of the Richmond Education and Event Centre (formerly the Richmond Hospital).
The unveiling was attended by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Minister Stephen Donnelly, Justice Mary Laffoy, Mr Paul Reid, Mr Charlie Bird, the Stardust families, Sr Stan, ICTU General Secretary Ms Patricia King, ICTU President Mr Kevin Callinan and many others.
The first memorial is to commemorate the anniversary of the Stardust tragedy and the 48 victims who lost their lives on 14th February 1981. The Richmond Hospital treated many of the victims on that night and the memorial is to acknowledge the connection with The Richmond hospital and give the families affected by Stardust a place to attend in remembrance.
The second memorial will commemorate the lives lost during the pandemic, in particular those of the brave healthcare workers who passed away due to COVID, and will honour the extraordinary contribution of nurses and midwives over the past two years.
Both memorial pieces were designed by Irish artist, Robert Ballagh.
Speaking at the launch, INMO President, Ms Karen McGowan said:
“On behalf of the INMO Executive Council and our members from across the country, I want to thank the Taoiseach, Mr Charlie Bird, the Stardust families, Robert Ballagh for joining us here today as we unveil our permanent reminders of the victims of the Stardust tragedy and those who died during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to thank our colleagues in the wider trade union movement, the HSE, SAGE and Sr Stan for joining us today as we reflect and remember these two events that have and will have a lasting impact on our country.
“When remembering those who tragically died during both COVID and Stardust, we think of that many families never got a chance to say goodbye to a loved one who passed away so unexpectedly.
“We remember how our frontline workers came together to treat patients both during the Stardust tragedy 41 years ago today and all throughout the pandemic. Nurses who worked during the Stardust tragedy tell us that they never experienced anything of that magnitude in their career before and it has stayed with them for their careers. Many nurses in the last two years have said the same about the profound impact COVID-19 has had on both their careers and personal lives.
“The memory of the Stardust disaster, in which 48 people tragically lost their lives and over 200 were injured when a fire broke out in a nightclub in Artane on Dublin’s northside, lives on in the hearts and minds of so many people in Ireland.
“Stardust has scarred a generation in Dublin, particularly on this side of the city. It is particularly poignant that we are launching todays memorials here on the grounds of the old Richmond Hospital where many victims were treated in the aftermath.
“Nurses and midwives have played and extraordinary part in the fight against COVID-19. So much has happened since COVID first arrived on our shores that we forget that our health service did not know what it was up against in respect of COVID-19.
“Whenever a nurse or midwife dies in the line of duty it affects our members deeply but during COVID especially it has been so tough. As a nation we are known for how we come together when we mourn the loss of members of our community. This was impossible when we were at the height of COVID. We will analyse for many years to come the profound impact COVID has had on us as a people but by being here today and unveiling this memorial, we can remember the incredible role nurses and midwives played in the fight against a largely invisible virus.”
General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Phil Ní Sheaghdha added:
“The INMO is pleased to offer a space for families of those that lost their lives tragically in both the Stardust fire and during COVID to mourn and remember their loved ones. For many families the heartache of losing someone under such unforeseen circumstances is still very real.
“The nursing workforce played unprecedented roles during both the Stardust tragedy and the COVID pandemic. Their role must not be forgotten as we write the history of both events.”