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Deaths investigation Families sue State to force public inquiry into Covid deaths in nursing homes

Mr Lavery said the care system in Ireland had "allowed a shocking number of deaths to take place in nursing homes" and was "not fit for purpose"

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Relatives of those who died or suffered want answers. Picture posed

Relatives of those who died or suffered want answers. Picture posed

Relatives of those who died or suffered want answers. Picture posed

Legal proceedings have been launched in the High Court aimed at forcing the State to hold an inquiry into Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.

The case is being taken by relatives of people who died or who suffered adverse health consequences due to alleged negligence in their care.

Eighteen plaintiffs are represented in the matter by law firm PA Duffy, which wrote to the Minister for Health on their behalf earlier this year seeking an inquiry.

In a judicial review case against the Taoiseach, Minister for Health, Minister for Finance, the Attorney General and Ireland, they say their request for a commission of investigation or an alternative form of public inquiry has not been agreed to.

Opening an application seeking leave to bring the proceedings, Ronan Lavery QC said the majority of the plaintiffs were relatives of people who had lost loved ones in nursing homes.

"This is a case where families of people who died from Covid-19 in nursing homes want an investigation into the nature of those deaths," he said.

"Such an investigative duty arises, we say, under Article 40.3 of the Constitution, which is a requirement to vindicate rights where injustice has been done."

Mr Lavery said the care system in Ireland had "allowed a shocking number of deaths to take place in nursing homes" and was "not fit for purpose".

He said that a minority of the plaintiffs were people whose relatives did not die in nursing homes but "have issues with negligence and the nature of their treatment" while in care.

"Even those who recovered from illness, a lot of them have long-term damage, organ failure, mental health issues, arising out of being taken into hospital and being put into induced comas for instance," he said.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan asked if there was medical evidence to support these claims.

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Mr Lavery said there wasn't "at the moment" but it was not necessary to provide it at this stage.

He said that the issue was a wide-ranging one and was not just of interest to the applicants but to society in general.

Pressed further by the judge on the issue of medical evidence, Mr Lavery said there were difficulties in getting access to medical information.

"For instance, from private nursing homes, they have raised GDPR and confidentiality issues in relation to their patients," he told the judge.

Mr Lavery added that freedom of information requests and other requests would be required.

"You are going to have to do that because you are proceeding on the assumption in some of these cases that the treatment was substandard," Mr Justice Meenan said.

Adjourning the matter until Thursday, the judge said he wanted time to read the papers filed by the plaintiffs.

He said the matter was "far too important" to deal with on a day when the time he could give to it would be limited due to other cases in his list.

More than half of the almost 5,000 deaths from Covid-19 have been residents in nursing homes.

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