A senior Garda has been appointed to oversee an investigation into an incident during which a Covid patient was encouraged to leave a Co Donegal hospital against medical advice.
The patient, Joe McCarron (67) from Dungloe was readmitted to Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) a day later and put on a ventilator. He died on Friday without regaining consciousness and was buried on Sunday afternoon.
In a widely shared video Antonio Mureddu, an Italian restaurant owner with a long history of conspiratorial and far-right activism, claimed to be "rescuing" Mr McCarron, and falsely claimed that treatment in the hospital would "kill" the patient.
One doctor told Mr McCarron that leaving the hospital would risk “endangering” his life. “It’s a very difficult disease that you have, and I’m not lying to you, you could die, but this could be your best chance in the hospital,” the staff member told the patient.
“It’s better that he die in the house than he dies here,” Mr Mureddu responded before escorting the patient out of the hospital. “We are so happy we have saved Joe’s life,” he said in a later video, before Mr McCarron was rushed back to the hospital.
Gardaí in Donegal have since been advised to be careful if dealing with Mr Mureddu. In a circular issued to all members in the county, officers were warned there is concern about him passing on Covid-19 due to his previous behaviour, a garda source confirmed.
It is understood at least one other similar incident occurred at the same hospital in recent weeks during which staff were falsely accused of providing improper care to patients.
"An Garda Síochána continues to investigate a number of recent incidents which occurred at Letterkenny University Hospital," a Garda spokeswoman said on Sunday.
“A senior investigating officer is appointed to oversee the investigation.”
Mr Mureddu, a former Italian soldier, carried out the "rescue" with assistance from members of the Common Law Information Centre in nearby Ballybofey. The group promotes a bizarre interpretation of the law which states legislation only apply to people if they consent to it.
Common law groups came to prominence during the recession when homeowners facing bank repossessions were encouraged to frustrate the court process using tactics such as not recognising the court and attempting to perform citizens’ arrests on judges.
In one video published after Mr McCarron left the hospital, Mr Mureddu and Michael McGee of the Common Law Information Centre advise followers to use baseless common law tactics and documents to carry out similar actions in other hospitals.
Mr Mureddu said it was Mr McCarron who requested his assistance.
Company records show Mr Mureddu, who also goes by Antonio Gravegliu, is the director of the company which owns the Headford Arms Ristopub in Headford, Galway.
He is a supporter of the Italian far-right Lega party and in 2019 sought to host a meeting for Irish supporters of the party in his restaurant.
Mr Mureddu was recently pulled over by a garda for speeding. In a video he uploaded, Mr Mureddu, who is sitting in the front seat of his car, denies he was driving and tells the garda “I am the master and you are the servant.”
In a Tweet on Saturday, former justice minister Alan Shatter, said the garda should clarify whether the incident at LUH was the subject of a Garda investigation.
He earlier said the people involved should be prosecuted.
Mr Mureddu was contacted by The Irish Times last week and again on Sunday for comment but did not respond.
‘Very sad day’
Mr McCarron, born in 1954, was a former radio DJ who was well known in Dungloe. More recently, he was a carer to his wife of 38 years, Una.
Fr Eddie Gallagher told mourners at his funeral Mass: “This is a very sad day, and we think of the bereaved who are broken-hearted on this day.”
A special welcome was given to Mr McCarron’s friends at the Mass, especially those in the AA fellowship.
Fr Gallagher said: “ Life can be a bumpy road. I’m sure Joe had many good days and did many good deeds, especially in AA.
“I’m sure, like us all, he made mistakes. We ask God today to reward him for his good works and forgive him for any wrong he may have done.”
Prayers were said for the doctors and nurses who helped Mr McCarron and worked with him in LUH.
Last week, a family spokesman said after he returned to hospital that Mr McCarron’s wife Una wanted to apologise to hospital staff for what had happened and criticised those who helped remove him from hospital as “reckless”.