Full public inquiry of Covid-19 pandemic required, says Mary Lou McDonald

The report is due to focus on the healthcare response to the pandemic and it is not clear whether it will be made public

Mary Lou McDonald said that a public inquiry should be time bound and should look in particular at the experience of nursing homes in the first wave.  Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Mary Lou McDonald said that a public inquiry should be time bound and should look in particular at the experience of nursing homes in the first wave. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Mary Lou McDonald has said a full public inquiry should be undertaken into the Covid-19 pandemic rather than having a review focused solely on the healthcare response.

The Sinn Féin leader was speaking after the Sunday Times reported that Government leaders have decided not to have a commission of inquiry or Oireachtas committee examine how the State has handled the pandemic. It is instead planning to begin discussions shortly on the appointment of an expert group to review the matter.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he would seek Government approval for a report into the handling of the pandemic by the health service.

It is not what clear the scope of that report would be, and whether it would be public or published, although Mr Donnelly said it would also examine the future of public health in the country.

“Neither of those will suffice,” Ms McDonald told RTÉ’s This Week programme.

“We have argued for a public inquiry,” she said, adding that it should be time bound and should look in particular at the experience of nursing homes in the first wave.

A Coalition spokesman said the programme for government had committed to “review and learn lessons” from the handling of the pandemic.

“An evaluation of how the country managed this pandemic will focus on what can be learned in the event of future pandemics or public health emergencies, and for reform of the health service,” he said.

“The form and appropriate time of any review is still to be decided by government, as we continue to deal with the threat of Covid-19.”

A source indicated that the coalition’s desire is to keep focused on Covid-19 and that the form of any inquiry was still to be discussed by Government. They added it would likely include expertise from operational and clinical sides.

Another source said there has not been much discussion about the format of an inquiry yet, but that they would favour a “public element”.

Ms McDonald also called for a hybrid option for the Leaving Cert this year, saying students taking the exam had suffered disruption right across the cycle of their studies.

“They will still have their masks on, will still be in cold classrooms with the windows open, so we’re not back (to normal) by any stretch.”