"I can't put into words how devastating it is," says Kevin Conroy, reflecting on the ordeal that came to an end on the steps of the Four Courts in November last year, when the HSE and a consultant obstetrician finally apologised for injuries sustained by his daughter Róisín at her birth 12 years earlier.
Róisín, who has cerebral palsy and communicates only with her eyes, was awarded an interim payment of €2.6 million under a High Court settlement following the State's admission of liability just five weeks before the case was due to go to trial.
Until Róisín was nine, Kevin and his wife Mary, from Portlaoise, had thought they had been "just unlucky" at their daughter's birth. It was only when they were persuaded to contact solicitor Michael Boylan a few years ago, and through him secured access to hospital charts and medical notes, that they realised there were deficiencies in care received.
The “breach of trust” was the hardest to take, says Conroy. “With cerebral palsy, the first five years is paramount. If they had admitted it at the time, it would have made a huge difference to Róisín’s recovery. After that it was a sliding scale, as to what the recovery could be.
“When she was younger, Róisín was trying to walk. That’s what numbs you completely – the fact that she was trying to walk. If she had got the therapy at the time, I feel she would have been so much better.”
Today, Róisín requires 24-hour care. She cannot speak or walk, and Conroy says the family don’t know how much of her rehabilitation they can “claw back”. But in small ways the pressures have eased: the recent purchase of a specially adapted camper van has enabled them to take holidays as a family again. “That’s been a great lease of life to her.”