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Ireland Covid-19 Public Inquiry

The Irish Covid-19 Public Inquiry is an independent investigation which is to be established. The terms of reference are not yet published but it is hoped that the Inquiry once set up will examine the preparation for, response to, and impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Ireland particularly in the care home sector which was disproportionately affected. The Inquiry will not deal with issues of civil and criminal liability but instead make recommendations for future change that will be presented to Government.

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Public Inquiries are independent investigations which are established in response to public concern about a particular event or set of events.

An Inquiry is established with powers to investigate matters of public concern and is typically led by an experienced Chairperson. Upon completion, a report which presents recommendations is submitted to Parliament for consideration.

What is the Covid-19 Inquiry?

Without question the handling of the pandemic in Ireland has become a matter of significant concern, particularly in relation to the handling of Covid-19 in healthcare settings such as hospitals and nursing homes. To ensure Ireland is prepared for a future global pandemic, it is essential to guarantee a transparent investigation that will establish facts, and learn lessons from, the strategic response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.

The upcoming Covid-19 Inquiry is reported to examine the preparation for, response to, and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland. It is understood that this investigation will bring clarity and ascertain accountability for the State’s core decision-making across key policy areas during the pandemic. By way of example topics of investigation may include but are not limited to:

  • Pandemic planning and exercises carried out by the Government.

  • The decision to lockdown and to apply other restrictions.

  • The delivery of a system of testing, outbreak management and self-isolation; HEPA ventilation in all homes.

  • The supply, distribution, and use of Personal Protective Equipment.

  • The transfer of residents to or from care and nursing homes, treatment and care of residents including implementation and support for resident's human rights, restrictions on visiting, infection prevention and control, and inspections.

Other areas may also be examined such as the economic impacts of the pandemic.

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What are the Terms of Reference?

The terms of reference once published will set out the nature of and provisional scope of the inquiry. We have emphasised that any Inquiry must be compliant with domestic and international human rights standards, and most importantly the bereaved must be centrally involved in its participation.

Covid-19: Global Investigations

Public Inquiries investigating the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic are ongoing across many countries. The UK Covid-19 Inquiry is currently taking place and the investigation is being completed on a modular basis. Other countries such as Sweden and The United States have also launched Covid commissions with Sweden’s investigation producing interim reports in 2020, 2021, and a concluding final report in February 2022.

It has been reported that an upcoming Inquiry in the Republic of Ireland will take a similar form to that of Sweden’s Covid-19 state investigation.

What Happens Next?

In January 2023, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that the investigation into the State’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic will take the form of a full public inquiry. The Inquiry has been confirmed to begin in 2024 after a series of delays. The Government have not yet published the terms of reference, a document outlining the scope of the Inquiry, and the appointment of members is yet to be made. However, Health Minister Simon Harris has confirmed that the Inquiry’s terms of reference are to be presented to Cabinet shortly. We believe it is vital that bereaved family members who lost loved ones to Covid-19 deserve answers. This means that bereaved families should be at the heart of any upcoming Inquiry.

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Meet Conal

Conal McGarrity, Director of P.A. Duffy & Co. Solicitors has been regularly instructed in the most serious and high-profile cases within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Conal practices in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. He is an expert in the areas of human rights, dispute resolution, and medical negligence.

Conal is currently instructed in challenges against State authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in respect of failures to establish Public Inquires to investigate the handling of the Covid- 19 pandemic in each jurisdiction. He is highly experienced in public inquiries and state commissions of investigation. He is currently instructed in the UK Covid-19 Public Inquiry, acting as the Recognised Legal Representative for Northern Ireland Covid-19 Families for Justice and representing victims of historical child abuse in the Bill Kenneally Inquiry, one of the most serious inquiries into paedophilia in Ireland.

Conal has also been instructed in landmark human rights challenges including, TKF v The Department of Justice, the leading authority on the interpretation of Article 75 of Council Regulation (EC) No 4/2009 on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and cooperation in matters relating to maintenance obligations. Whereby, the Department of Justice for Northern Ireland, as the Central Authority responsible for discharging the duties arising from that regulation, concerning the recognition and enforcement in the United Kingdom of decisions in matters relating to maintenance obligations that were given in Poland before it acceded to the European Union.

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Meet Enda

Leading the legal team alongside Conal McGarrity is Enda McGarrity, Head of the Healthcare department and Solicitor at P.A. Duffy & Co. Solicitors. Enda’s caseload consists of high value medical negligence claims, historical abuse claims, Inquests and Judicial Review. He is also instructed in various challenges against State authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in respect of failures to establish Public Inquiries to investigate the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in each jurisdiction.

Enda possesses a strong sense of justice and is always keen to assist the most vulnerable people in society. He is committed to providing legal assistance to victims of discrimination, and this commitment to justice is highlighted in his current workload, where he acts to represent the interests of vulnerable care home residents, bereaved families, victims of historical abuse and those who have suffered significant injuries as a result of medical negligence.

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How we can help

If you have lost loved ones due to Covid-19, we believe you deserve the right to a full and transparent investigation. Our expert team will work proactively to progress each stage of this case without unnecessary delay. We consider it imperative that lessons are learned so that future deaths and suffering can be prevented should another pandemic arise.

We communicate with our clients on a regular basis to ensure that you are fully appraised of the latest developments of your case and that you understand what these mean for both you and your family. So many have suffered loss as a result of Covid-19, together, we can find answers to questions that have remained unresolved for far too long.

Speak to our expert team of solicitors today with no obligation and we will be happy to assist you with your enquiry. Please do not hesitate to contact us by email on covidinquiry@paduffy.com or by telephone on 015337860.

FAQs

What happens now that the Inquiry has been established by the Irish Government?

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that the investigation into the State’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic will take the form of a full public inquiry. We await the terms of reference to be published which will outline the nature and the provisional scope of the inquiry’s investigation.

What form will an upcoming Inquiry take?

In the Republic of Ireland, there are several forms of public inquiry with different powers:

Tribunals of Inquiry

A Tribunal of Inquiry, often called a tribunal or statutory inquiry, are established with the powers, privileges, and rights of the High Court. Their work is primarily inquisitorial and not adversarial. Tribunals are invested with the power to compel the attendance and examination of certain witnesses and the production of relevant documents. Hearings are commonly held in public but can, at the Tribunal's discretion, be held in private. Upon completion, Tribunals are required to report their findings to Parliament (The Oireachtas).

Commissions of Investigation

A Commission of Investigation is established by Government order which must be approved by the Dáil and Seanad. The terms of reference for such investigations are set by the State or by an individual Cabinet Minister. While this method of investigation has been deemed more efficient and less expensive, evidence is typically presented to the Commission in private hearings. Upon completion, a commission of investigation will present a conclusive report of its findings to a specified Minister.

How does an Inquiry affect the bereaved and do I possess the right to redress?

In Ireland, there have been some occasions following a state investigation that victims have been afforded the right to redress. For example, schemes have been established to compensate victims of various state failings during the relevant periods which were under investigation.

Examples of such compensation schemes include:

  • The Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal 1995. Compensation was afforded to those infected with Hepatitis C or HIV as a result of the use of Human Immunoglobulin Anti-D or as a result of the receipt of a blood transfusion or blood product within the State.

  • The Residential Institutions Redress Board 2002. Established to compensate victims of historical child abuse while resident in industrial schools, reformatories and other institutions subject to State regulation or inspection.

  • Caranua 2013 was established under the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 to help those who experienced abuse in residential institutions and have received settlements through the Residential Institutions Redress Board or the courts.

  • The Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme 2014 was set up to provide ex-gratia payments to women who underwent a surgical symphysiotomy or a pubiotomy in any hospital in the State between 1940 and 1990.

Why is it important that the upcoming Covid Inquiry is a statutory inquiry?

We consider this as vital because a statutory inquiry is established with the powers, privileges, and rights of the High Court.  Their work is primarily inquisitorial and not adversarial. Tribunals are invested with the power to compel the attendance and examination of certain witnesses, the production of relevant documents, and the requirement to involve the bereaved.

What is the goal of this Inquiry?

The goal of any Inquiry is to produce an evidenced understanding of the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland. To determine accountability for failures of Government, State authorities and key stakeholders all of whom were involved in key decision-making throughout the pandemic. Finally, it will make recommendations to ensure lessons are learnt to inform Ireland’s preparation for, and response to future pandemics and/or public health emergencies.

Will my voice be heard?

Our expert legal team understand that everyone has a unique and individual story to share. We will aim to incorporate and prioritise every voice throughout our submissions at the various stages of any upcoming Inquiry.

Can criminal prosecution take place during an Inquiry?

A public inquiry cannot determine criminal liability. It can however conclude whether criminal and civil liability was present. For example, in the Hillsborough Investigation, the jury concluded that the deceased had been unlawfully killed which subsequently paved the way for separate criminal proceedings.

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Our Ireland Covid-19 Inquiry Team

Conal McGarrityConal McGarrityDirector
Enda McGarrityEnda McGarritySolicitor
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