Decision to separate elderly couple ‘devoid of humanity’

Leo Varadkar sorry for what Wexford couple ‘endured at the expense of bureaucracy’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described as "devoid of common sense and humanity" a decision to separate an elderly couple who sought nursing home care together but were only granted a nursing home place for one.

Kathleen Devereux (85) was refused a place and offered a home care package of two 30 minute sessions twice a week while her husband Michael (90) was accepted for the Fair Deal scheme and nursing home care in Wexford.

Mr Varadkar confirmed that the couple, who have been married for 63 years, are to be re-united and Mrs Devereaux will be accepted into the nursing home.

The Taoiseach said he had read media reports of the case.


“It’s something that shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “I’m personally very upset to hear that an elderly couple in their final years could be separated in this year and I think it was devoid of common sense and devoid of humanity.”

Mr Varadkar added: “My heart really goes out to them and what they’ve endured at the expense of bureaucracy in the past number of weeks.”

He said Minister for Health Simon Harris had moved very swiftly to resolve the case and to have the decision reviewed and he will look at decisions in relation to other couples.

The situation has been resolved and Mr Harris and Minister of State Paul Kehoe, a Wexford TD, had been in touch with the couple’s son.


Mr Varadkar said it was a shame that the matter was not resolved before it entered the public domain.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who raised the case, said Mrs Deveraux had been in hospital for three months and was expected to live and cope on her own for the first time in more than six decades.

“Those responsible for this decision have to be held to account,” she insisted. “Anybody who is okay about treating an 85-year-old woman with such contempt should not be working in healthcare.”

Ms McDonald asked how many other couples were in a situation similar to the Devereauxs.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin, also a Wexford TD, said it was "not good enough that the system is so defective" that takes a matter being raised on the airwaves for it to receive a compassionate response.

Mr Howlin, who said he had been involved in the case since April, asked “how many more Kathleen and Michaels are out there” whose cases for various reasons were not broadcast on the airwaves.

Mr Varadkar said the decision was not a budgetary one but made on a clinical basis. However, the Government did not stand over it and questions had to be asked about why the decision was made in the first place.

He said it was likely there were other cases and that this had to change.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times