Refusal to hold public inquiry into care-home deaths challenged

Applicants claim refusal contrary to public interest, unfair, unreasonable, disproportionate

The 19 individuals from all over the Republic are also seeking declarations the refusal to conduct such an inquiry is unlawful. File photograph: The Irish Times

The 19 individuals from all over the Republic are also seeking declarations the refusal to conduct such an inquiry is unlawful. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

A High Court challenge has been taken over the State’s refusal to hold a public investigation into coronavirus-related deaths in care homes.

The action is by 19 individuals from all over the Republic who are challenging a decision by the Minister for Health on June 28th not to establish a formal investigation into Covid 19 deaths in care homes in the State.

Most of the applicants have a relative recorded as having died from the virus while in a care home here.

Some applicants claim to have experienced a range of failures within nursing homes during the pandemic, which they say should be included in the inquiry.

The court heard the applicants sought the investigation because of their deep concerns about their relatives deaths and the preparedness and response of the care homes. They claim a public investigation into the deaths is required under the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.

Such an investigation would establish the facts, allow lessons from events, provide accountability, help rebuild confidence in the sector and prevent a reoccurrence, they claim.

They claim the refusal, formally indicated to the applicant’s solicitors last month, to hold such an inquiry is contrary to the public interest, unfair, unreasonable and disproportionate.

Breach of rights

Represented by Ronan Lavery SC, the applicants have brought judicial review proceedings against An Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, Minister for Finance, Ireland and the Attorney General.

The want an order quashing the decision not to hold an investigation into Covid-19 deaths in the State and damages.

They also seek declarations the refusal to conduct such an inquiry is unlawful, unconstitutional and in breach of their rights.

When the matter was briefly mentioned, on an ex-parte basis, before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday, he said no medical evidence supporting certain claims that residents had been badly or not properly treated at the homes had been given to the court.

Given the issues raised, he said he wanted time to consider the documents and adjourned the matter to later this week.