Northern Ireland families call for 'lessons to be learnt' from pandemic as Covid inquiry begins

Families from Northern Ireland who lost loved ones during the pandemic have arrived in London for the first public hearings of the long-awaited Covid inquiry. 

Sean Scullion's mother Nuala died in February 2021 at Causeway Hospital - she was just 58.

“We are just left with this to live with. There are no answers. My mother spent five weeks on a ventilator. Her dignity was taken from her,” Sean told UTV.

He added: “It is important to be here today because I don’t want other families to experience what we felt. I am hoping for some answers.”

Julie McMurray’s husband Robert died in January 2021 - he was 64. 

Robert contracted Covid while in hospital for an operation.

Mrs McMurray said: “Robert was a lovely, lovely guy. He had early onset dementia but he was very happy at home."

She added: “He got very confused in hospital. He should have had one-to-one care - he didn’t.  

“He should have had a care plan - he didn’t. It’s very important that lessons are learnt.

"We need accountability. We need to know what went wrong and we need to avoid it happening again.“

Martina Ferguson, whose mother, Ursula Derry, contracted the virus in a care home and died in January 2021, said the families decided to travel to London as they want their voices heard. 

Ms Ferguson said: "It’s an emotional day for me and all of the bereaved families. But it is a very important one." 

Today’s public hearing opened with a statement from chair Baroness Hallett and a film of testimonies from bereaved families that was described as "difficult to watch".

Counsel for the inquiry Hugo Keith QC said the pandemic “left in its wake death, misery and loss.“

He added: “It ended and changed lives on a scale unseen in modern history.”

This first module of the inquiry is assessing if the pandemic was properly planned for and whether the UK was adequately ready.

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