Burton cautions on duration of inquiry
Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has warned against rushing down “the legal adversarial road” in the inquiry into Savita Halappanavar’s death.
“When Mr Justice Michael Moriarty first started work on his tribunal, he said it would be finished within 12 months,” she said. “In fact, it took almost 13 years.” She said she understood the ambition for the inquiry under way was that it would be completed on a preliminary basis before Christmas.
Its chairman was an internationally renowned expert and entirely independent. “The other members of the inquiry team are also nationally and internationally renowned.” Ms Burton said that from the point of view of women’s safety, it was important to establish what happened and that if hospitals in Ireland needed to move immediately to make appropriate provision relating to securing the safety and well-being of women, it should be done.
The Minister, who was taking Opposition Leaders’ Questions on the Government’s behalf, supported the remarks by President Michael D Higgins on the controversy. “They were considerate, thoughtful, reflective and humane.”
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the Government could be in open conflict with the late Ms Halappanavar’s family in a court of law to try to access or attain medical records so that it could continue with an inquiry or investigation that nobody wanted or had any confidence in. “How can the Government continue with this investigation?” he asked.
“The family do not want it and, at this stage, some of the Minister’s colleagues do not want it, while the President has told the Government it is clearly wrong.” He added that the President was reflecting the views of the Irish people.
Mr Kelleher called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene personally in the controversy and meet Mr Halappanavar, “to find out exactly what investigation would satisfy his concerns and those of his family”.
Ms Burton said the thoughts of everybody in Ireland, from the first citizen to every other citizen, were with Mr Halappanavar and his family.
Mr Kelleher said a commission of inquiry could be the way forward. “The Taoiseach is quite entitled to, and should, meet Praveen and the family to discuss their concerns.“In fact, it should have happened already.”
Ms Burton said she did not think anybody who heard Mr Halappanavar speak could have failed to be moved by what he said. “The deputy acknowledged himself, however, that the hospital and the HSE must know what happened in order that they can ensure immediately there are no further risks to the lives of women in hospital.”
Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Taoiseach should sit down with Mr Halappanavar and address the issues concerned.
He said part of the functions of an inquiry must be to restore public confidence and, above all, the confidence of the women of Ireland.
“I urge that a full independent inquiry be undertaken.”
Ms Burton said Mr Halappanavar had shown dignity. She said that “in fairness, when news of this was first broadcast in the media, there was an expression that communication was to be via his legal adviser”.