The Stardust inquests have heard how Dublin Corporation wrote to the Dublin club three weeks before a fatal fire asking for "immediate assurances" that exits should be "unobstructed" at all times while the public were on the premises and that former manager Eamon Butterly replied that he personally was taking "great care" to make sure all exits were clear.

The letter addressed to Patrick Butterly, Eamon’s father, dated 23 January 1981, followed a visit to the venue by an inspector on the night of ‘The Specials’ concert held eight days earlier.

It noted overcrowding on the night and that an exit at the side of the stage was obstructed with "cases" and "boxes".

It also drew attention to bye-laws which required "special care be taken to ensure that the means of escape provided for all persons on the premises are at all times maintained, unobstructed and immediately available".

Dublin District Coroner's Court was shown - in a letter dated 27 January 1981 - that Eamon Butterly replied "again I assure you that all exits will be kept clear when the public are on the premises".

Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins, who is representing families of the victims, told the inquests today that while Mr Butterly was saying in his letter that "everything was wonderful", he did not include the fact that certain exit doors were being locked on disco nights.

He asked Mr Butterly if this was "misleading?"

"No," Mr Butterly replied, "I was just answering a letter".

Later in the questioning, he said: "I never concealed anything from the authorities".

The fire in February 1981 left 48 people dead

Earlier, Mr Butterly told the inquests into the deaths of 48 people in the 1981 fire that evidence he has given in relation to the practice of locking fire exit doors was "contradictory".

Mr O'Higgins put it to him that, last Thursday, in his first day of giving direct evidence, the now 78- year-old told the court that the policy of keeping doors locked up until around midnight on disco nights while there were patrons inside came from head doorman Tom Kennan, who is deceased.

Mr O'Higgins added that Mr Butterly’s evidence had also been that he tried to stop the practice, but that his attempts "fell on deaf ears".

During sustained questioning on the matter, Mr O'Higgins read from the 1981 Keane Tribunal into the fire and noted that during evidence there, Mr Butterly said that he made the decision himself to introduce the practice of locking the fire exits for a time on disco nights.

Mr O’Higgins put it to the witness that he was either not telling the truth last Thursday or was not telling the truth in 1981.

"I was telling the truth all the time, the best I could," replied Mr Butterly.

Mr O’Higgins also put it to the witness that, at the Keane Tribunal, Mr Butterly was owning the decision to introduce the policy of locking doors "100%".

"Yes," replied Mr Butterly.

Mr O’Higgins added that what he was now telling the jury at the inquests was the "exact opposite".

Mr Butterly later said: "It was Tom Kennan’s idea."

He was also asked why the situation had changed three weeks before the fire that the practice of keeping three exits locked up until midnight was introduced.

"I can't answer that," he said.

The court heard how Mr Butterly told gardaí in 1981 that the practice of keeping three exits locked for a time on disco nights was "forced" on him because a "large number of people" were getting in for free.

Today, he told the inquests that he never saw anyone coming in through the exit doors without paying.

Mr O'Higgins suggested that it was in fact not a significant problem. "Okay," replied Mr Butterly.

It was put to him that it was doormen letting people in that was more a problem than the "odd stray" getting in.

Mr Butterly said the first he heard about the door staff letting people in without paying at the front desk was at these inquests.

"I couldn’t believe it when I heard," he said. "That’s the truth, I didn’t have a clue about it," he said.

It was put to him that saying it was "the fault of the people" that the policy of locking doors was brought in was to deflect responsibility away from the Stardust.

"No," replied Mr Butterly.

The inquest also heard that one week before the deadly blaze, on 14 February 1981, a fire officer had visited the premises, but was not told about exit doors being locked.

Mr Butterly agreed with counsel for the families that if the officer had been told then of the practice, there would have been an outright "veto" on doing it on the spot.

Mr O’Higgins put it to Mr Butterly that if the Stardust had been "fronting up" with the fire officer then "this business of locking doors might have been stamped out" days before the deadly blaze.

"Possibly so," replied Mr Butterly.

Mr Butterly also said that he "didn’t recall as a problem" staff drinking on the job, and when asked, said that morale among staff "was not low".

He repeated that head doorman Tom Kennan had told him at around 11.30pm on the night in question that all the fire doors were open.

Mr O'Higgins said: "I’m beginning to wonder on the night of the 13th, did people forget to open doors?"

Mr Butterly replied: "… they did not, the doors were open".

At one point in the proceedings it was suggested that he was trying on occasions to "muddy the waters" when hard questions were being put.

"I’m not trying to do that. I disagree," he responded.

It was also put to Mr Butterly that draping chains over the bars of doors, referred to as mock-locking, was a "bit unusual".

He replied that "it wasn’t then".

It was put to him that he was running a venue where this practice was in place and that nobody had apparently attempted to find out how effective it was in jamming doors.

"The doormen themselves would’ve done that," Mr Butterly said.