The former manager of the Stardust complex in Dublin has told the inquests into the deaths of 48 people in a fire more than 40 years ago that he never saw the fire exits locked on disco nights.

The now 78-year-old was 36 years old at the time of the fire and had been on the premises when it broke out in the early hours of Saturday 14 February 1981.

In direct evidence, Eamon Butterly also said he told the head doorman at the time not to have the exits locked and said he told him to stop doing it.

Mr Butterly was asked what efforts he made to ensure it was no longer being done.

"I trusted him," he replied.

Dublin District Coroner's Court earlier heard how - in a 1981 garda statement - Mr Butterly said the practice of locking fire exit doors for a time on disco nights was forced on him because of what he said were the large number of people getting in for free through the exit doors.

Today, he described himself as "a manager of mangers in the whole place" and agreed that the Stardust was probably one of the largest ballrooms in the country at the time.

Mr Butterly also agreed with Mark Tottenham, counsel for the inquests, that it was unusual to cover the walls in carpet tiles.

But he said that if Dublin Corporation had said that they could not go on the walls, they would not have and the corporation did not say that.

Mr Butterly also told the court that he was not aware of the flammability of the foam used in the seating in the club when it was installed.

"Then, I didn’t, but now I do," he said.

Mr Butterly said that steel sheets were placed on the windows of toilets after complaints from doormen who said people were passing items in through them, including weapons.

He was asked if there was any consultation with the local authority or fire service before installing the steel sheets.

"No," he replied.

Mr Butterly also told the inquest that no fire training was given to staff, saying: "No instructions were given. I was not an expert".

Family members of those who died were in court today and sat in the public gallery, which was full.

It is expected that Mr Butterly will spend a number of days giving direct evidence.

Family members of those who died were in court today

In statements given in 1981 to gardaí and read into the record today, he said the policy of locking exit doors on disco nights was "forced" on him because a "large number" of people were being let in the exits by their friends and not paying.

He was also asked by gardaí in 1981 if there was a roster for the doormen which detailed which of them was responsible for unlocking fire exits.

"A duty roster as such was not prepared for the doormen," he replied.

The inquests also heard today that Mr Butterly told gardaí in 1981 that "…at no time since the premises opened in March 1978, were the fire exit doors left locked during the whole of any evening".

The court was told that, hours after the fire, he said to gardaí that he was told by the head doorman on the night in question, before the fire broke out, that all of the fire exits were unlocked.

Mr Butterly told officers that Tom Kennan told him at around 11.30pm that the exits were unlocked.

He said the Stardust had opened at 10pm on the night, with the last people admitted at 12.15am.

Mr Butterly also told officers in October 1981 that the practice of draping chains around the bars of exits doors to give the impression they were locked originated from the doormen at the club and he did not order them to do it.

He also said that he was aware of the practice and did not stop it.

Mr Butterly was asked if consideration was given by management to the impression a person fleeing a fire, in a state of panic, would have on seeing a lock and chain draped over the bars on a fire exit.

He said that all a person had to do was to push the panic bar and the "door opened immediately".

There was a "push to open" sign on all exit doors, he added, except for Exit 2 which also served as the main entrance.

The inquests are being held in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital

The inquests, which began last April, are being held at the Dublin District Coroner's Court which is sitting in the Pillar Room on the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital in front of the coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane and a 13-person jury.

Original inquests were held in 1983 the following year after the blaze over a five-day period, but were widely regarded as inadequate.

In 2019, the then Attorney General, Seamus Woulfe, directed these fresh inquests be held, saying there had been an insufficiency of inquiry at the original inquests.