Legal challenge to Minister's refusal to hold inquiry into Covid deaths in care homes

Some of the applicants have experienced what they claim are a range of failures within nursing homes during the pandemic
Legal challenge to Minister's refusal to hold inquiry into Covid deaths in care homes

A High Court judge has directed that an application for permission to legally challenge the Minister for Health’s refusal to hold a public investigation into Covid-19 related deaths in care homes should be heard ln the presence of lawyers for the State.

The action, launched earlier this year, has been brought on behalf of 19 individuals from all over Ireland who are challenging a decision by the Minister for Health in June 28th last not to establish a formal investigation into the circumstances of Covid 19 deaths in care homes in the State.

They claim that the refusal is contrary to the public interest, is unfair, unreasonable and disproportionate.

Application

At the High Court on Monday Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the application for leave, or permission, to bring the action challenging the refusal should be made in the presence of the State respondents.

The judge said that the applicants, represented by Ronan Lavery SC, had raised issues over the State's obligations, under the European Convention of Human Rights, to conduct an inquiry or investigation into deaths.

That issue had been raised in a case that came before the Supreme Court in September, where the relatives of the late Seamus Ludlow want the State to establish an inquiry into the handling of the Garda investigation into the Co Louth man's murder in 1976.

Mr Justice Meenan had adjourned the applicants' ex-parte application for permission to bring the action until after the Supreme Court had ruled in the case brought by Mr Ludlow's family.

The judge said that arising out of that decision a general right to an investigation had been established.

However, he said that other issues, including what format such an investigation might take, still remain.

State respondents

In light of those issues the Judge said he was satisfied to direct that the application for leave in the case before him should be made in the presence of the State respondents.

The judge then adjourned the matter to a date in December.

The court previously heard that most of the applicants bringing the challenge had a relative who is recorded as having died from Covid while in a care home within the state.

Some of the applicants have experienced what they claim are a range of failures within nursing homes during the pandemic, which they say should be included in the inquiry.

Deep concerns

They want the State to conduct an investigation because of their deep concerns about the relative's deaths and the preparedness and response of the care homes.

They also claim a public investigation into their deaths is required under both the Irish Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.

Such an investigation, they claim, would establish the facts, allow learning from events, provide accountability, help rebuild confidence in the sector and prevent a re-occurrence.

In their judicial review proceedings against the An Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, Minister for Finance, Ireland and the Attorney General the applicants seek an order quashing last June's decision not to hold an investigation.

They also seek a declaration that Articles of the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights an investigation into the circumstances of Covid-19 deaths in the state's care homes.

They further seek declarations that the refusal to conduct such a probe is unlawful, unconstitutional and in breach of the applicants' rights.

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