Julie McDonnell (20), Coolock – ‘She was fun, loving, happy, smiling, helpful, caring and thoughtful’

Read by her niece Pamela

The inquests into the deaths of the 48 young people who died in the Stardust fire in Artane, Dublin, in 1981 feature pen portraits of each of the deceased by bereaved family members. Find all of the portraits and more coverage here.

I am 41 and I have never met my auntie Julie, but 14 months after her untimely demise, I was born into a grieving “Stardust family”.

I grew up around sadness and loss. I can’t put into words the effect it had on Julie’s mother Trish, my beautiful nanny, and her sisters and brothers. But I do know it’s just too painful for them to go there again and write this pen portrait on Julie.

Julie was fun, loving, happy, smiling, helpful, caring and thoughtful. She was a hard-worker and provided for the house as a breadwinner along with my nanny.


Julie and my nanny were more like friends than mother and daughter. Julie did everything to please her mam and if her sisters or brothers needed anything ... she would always [be] there to look after them. Julie and her sister Lorraine were like two peas in a pod. [They] shared a bedroom and it was filled with records, posters, books.

On the day of the 13th February there was a great buzz in my nanny’s house as Paula, the youngest sister, was dancing in the Ktel disco-dancing competition. Julie being more into cabaret and not into the dancing went along to support her little sister, along with Paddy, my dad, and her other sister Lorraine and lots of friends, work colleagues and neighbours.

Paula was crowned the winner along with Errol Buckley. My dad said when Paula won that Julie and Lorraine went mad screaming their heads off with delight for her. They were all made up and loving life. What happened next changed the path of so many. It was chaos outside.

My dad saw Paula leave and met Julie outside. They were all looking for Lorraine ... Little did he know Julie went back inside to look for her sister.

My dad arrived home and Julie was not there. Lorraine had gone to hospital with burns and Paula and my nanny stood by the window awaiting news of Julie ... It would be the Monday morning before [Julie was] identified by her aunt Lily and uncle Michael.

Julie’s 21st birthday was planned for the following weekend ... The family was faced with cancelling her party and organising her funeral. She was buried two days before her 21st birthday.

Julie’s death took a big toll on Lorraine. She had lost her sidekick. She went back to school to try to occupy her mind. She tried to find work but was not having any luck. She began applying for jobs in New York and Canada as an au pair.

In 1986, the government was paying out compensation. This did not sit well with Lorraine. She told my dad she felt as though they were buying her grief. She was offered £33,000 for her burns and was due to collect her cheque on the Tuesday. That was not to be, as Lorraine killed herself on the Monday.

This goes so deep inside families. I feel like I missed out too, and I wasn’t even born that night. It’s been 42 years now and, sadly, we said goodbye to my beautiful, heartbroken nanny in December 2020. There was no justice nor any resolution for her. Our only consolation is that she is with the girls now.

I wear Julie’s watch today, carry Lorraine’s letters and wear my nanny’s bracelet. Please bring peace to our families and finally allow them to rest.