28 May 2022

'It is unacceptable': Louth TD's hit out at Government over their response to Dealgan House families seeking inquiry

Government TD Fergus O'Dowd and Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú questioned Minister Mary Butler in the Dáil chamber last night

Fergus O'Dowd and Ruairi O Murchu

TD's Ruairí Ó Murchú and Fergus O'Dowd have criticized the Government on their stance on a public inquiry into Dealgan House

A Louth TD has called the Government’s response to requests for a public inquiry into the deaths of 23 residents in Dealgan House Nursing Home last year “a whitewash”.

Fine Gael Government backbencher Fergus O’Dowd and Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú raised questions about Dealgan House during a sitting of the Dáil last night, with both deputies calling for a public inquiry.

In response to their questions, Minister of State for Older People Mary Bulter said that the pandemic had not concluded, and that the Government’s primary goal was to manage the response to Covid-19.

“It must be recognised that the pandemic has not concluded and at this time a priority focus of Government remains on the ongoing management of the Covid-19 response to ensure that the positive gains now being experienced are preserved and that those most vulnerable to the virus continue to be safeguarded in light of the residual risk,” said Minister Butler.

“I am very aware that listening to families can bring great learning to many situations.

“While we are still dealing with a degree of risk in nursing homes due to Covid-19, we are continuing to look at options which may be available to the State in listening to the voices of those who have lost a loved one.”

Both Deputy O’Dowd and Deputy Ó Murchú rejected the Minister’s comments, with Deputy O’Dowd saying Minister Butler’s response was “unacceptable” and a “whitewash”

“I have to say I am deeply unhappy and I cannot accept what the Minister of State is putting before us this evening. It is a whitewash. It is unacceptable. It is insulting, most of all to those families who have fought tooth and nail,” said Deputy O’Dowd.

“They have had no closure and will not get it until there is a fair inquiry into the failure of management, into the weak policy of legislation and the weak regulation.”

Deputy Ó Murchú said that there were questions that needed to be answered, not just by Dealgan House, but by the HSE, HIQA and the RCSI Hospital Group, who took over Delagan House in April 2020.

“There are questions to be answered by the nursing home but also by the HSE, by HIQA and the RCSI Hospital Group,” said Deputy Ó Murchú.

“HIQA has put it on the record many times that it would accept its own weaknesses as a regulatory body and that it needs greater legislative powers.”

According to Deputy O’Dowd, there are currently witnesses who want to give evidence on what happened in Dealgan House to a public inquiry, and that there is precedent available to carry out an inquiry.

“I know two witnesses who want to give evidence to such an inquiry who were shocked and appalled by what they found in the home when they went in there. They are ready, willing and able to come before such an inquiry,” said Deputy O’Dowd.

The Democrat recently spoke with families of those who passed away due to Covid-19, with all members who spoke out seeking a public inquiry.
“I would like it done as soon as possible… This is 14 months now and we are not grieving,” said Laura Newberry, whose mother passed away in Dealgan last year.

“We were blue in the face asking Ministers for this inquiry,” said Mrs Newberry, with multiple members of the group meeting with both Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Minister Butler last October.

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