The Stardust inquest has been told concerns had been raised about a padlock on an emergency door of the nightclub six months prior to the fire, in which 48 people lost their lives in February 1981.

Edward Woods, who was employed at the time as a radio telephone controller in the Dangerous Buildings section of Dublin Corporation, said he had been told by a man, who he knew socially, that he had seen the door in the Stardust padlocked in late August 1980.

Mr Woods said the man, Willie Bassett, had asked him if he could inform the relevant section of Dublin Corporation about what he had witnessed.

He recalled how he "picked up a cigarette box and I wrote down the details on the box".

Mr Woods said Mr Basset was "very concerned and that's why he approached me".

He told the inquest that he had been speaking to Mr Basset on Friday, 1 September 1980 and he registered the incident in the dangerous structures logbook at work the following Monday.

Asked by counsel for the inquest, Simon Mills, if it was a single emergency door involved, Mr Woods said he could not recall if Mr Bassett had mentioned just one door or more doors but he said he referred to it as doors in the logbook.

Mr Woods, who dealt with calls relating to dangerous buildings, said: "I reported that one of the doors was padlocked" but he recommended that all the doors should be inspected.

He said he had not followed up the complaint as he assumed when he noted the incident, it would be dealt with.

Asked by counsel representing the families of nine of the victims, Brenda Campbell, if the report would have been taken seriously, he said: "I would assume it would have been taken very seriously."

"They wouldn't be prepared to take a chance on something as serious as that," he added.

'A shower of sparks'

Two witnesses told the inquest that they had seen sparks in the ceiling of the premises in the weeks before the fire.

Patrick O'Driscoll, who was a musician in an Elvis Presley tribute band, said they had been performing at the venue "about a week" prior to the blaze.

He described how it was a quiet night and half of the nightclub was closed off, as a result.

Mr O’Driscoll said there was "an accordion-style divider" between the stage and the backstage area.

He said that around 30 minutes into their performance he saw "a shower of sparks" falling from the ceiling in the backstage area.

He said it never dawned on him to say anything about it to anyone as he had seen a similar situation "maybe one other time" in another venue.

48 people lost their lives at the stardust nightclub in February 1981

Mr O’Driscoll said after he read about the fire, he thought what he saw on the night he played might be important.

He described the sparks as being "whiteish" in colour and he said the "quick shower" was "clearly visible" through a gap between where he was standing on the stage and the backstage area.

He said the spread of the sparks was "maybe three feet or four feet" wide and he said it was similar to what would be seen when passing a building site where a welder was using a machine.

Asked by counsel Des Fahy how long the shower of sparks lasted, he said "it was just a second or two".

Another witness, Suzanne McCluskey, attended a concert at the Stardust on 15 January 1981 when she was aged 16-years-old.

She told the inquest that a friend drew her attention to sparks flashing from the ceiling over the dancefloor about three quarters of an hour into the gig.

"I can clearly remember that I saw sparks, 100%."

"The interval between the flashes was one to two minutes and I noticed it for around ten minutes," she added.

Ms McCluskey described the flashes as being purple in colour and she said it was "not a series of flashes, just an odd purple flash".

She said she "wouldn’t describe them as a shower, more intermittent", but she said "they were very clear and evident".

Ms McCluskey said she would imagine that a lot of people would have seen the flashes.

"Initially I was a little startled, not frightened, but it was definitely unusual," she said.

She said on the night of the concert the Stardust was "packed". "I was on the dancefloor, there was no space on it."

Ms McCluskey added that "it was probably my first concert, I wouldn’t have been used to crowds like that".

She said she did not think about the incident again until she heard of the fire at the Stardust.

The inquest also heard evidence today from Declan Conway, who had sold the carpet tiles that lined the walls of the nightclub.

He worked as a sales representative for Bernard McLoughlin Ltd, which sold carpet tiles made by Illingworth, a company based in Bradford in England.

Mr Conway said the manager of the Stardust Eamon Butterly had requested a fire-safety certificate, which the company that manufactured the tiles provided following tests.

Counsel representing some of the families Brenda Campbell described the evidence from Mr Conway as "important to the families."

She said the Chief Fire Officer had requested that all internal wall linings have a minimum Class 1 surface spread as part of the planning.

Mr Conway said: "Whatever we got from Illingworth satisfied Mr Butterly."

Ms Campbell said a garda gave evidence to a previous inquiry that the carpet tiles that covered the walls contributed most towards the spread of the fire.

Mr Conway said: "I'm not aware of that" and he said he had received a certificate that the product met the British standard specifications."

And he said while he gave a statement to a solicitor for Mr Butterly in 1981, he insisted there was nothing untoward.

He said: "I can assure you and the families that Mr Butterly had no power in any way, shape or form over me."

Mr Conway added: "Eamon Butterly or any of the family could not and would not influence me in the evidence I was giving."

The inquest continues tomorrow.