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Covid inquiry: Families call for accountability and consequences

Image caption, The families of those who died during the pandemic held up photos of loved ones outside the inquiry on Thursday

For three weeks, some of the families of people who died during the coronavirus pandemic were listening to every word of the UK Covid Inquiry as it sat in Belfast.

During the hearings the key decisions of Northern Ireland’s politicians and their advisors were scrutinised.

Among those questioned were current and former ministers, top civil servants, and the Stormont executive’s chief medical advisor.

With the inquiry’s time in Northern Ireland now at an end, some of those families spoke to BBC News NI about what they felt it had achieved.

‘Accountability and consequences’

Lauren Mallon’s uncle Raymond McAleese was among those who died during the pandemic.

“After this inquiry for there to be true justice we need accountability and consequences,” she said.

“Lessons need to be learned from this inquiry, as government actions were damaging to hope and trust.”

Geraldine Treacy’s mum Margaret Stewart died during the pandemic.

“The inquiry has exposed all the faults of government here,” she said.

“We need better government and standards for everyone in society

“This is more than Covid.”

‘A sham’

Jennifer Currie’s mum died in 2020.

“The inquiry shows that our government was a sham and unprepared to deal with Covid,” she said.

Speaking outside the inquiry she called for “legislative change so that we can avoid something like this in the future”.

‘Some days we felt deflated…others we got a result’

Image source, Covid Inquiry

Catriona Myles’ father, Gerry McLarnon, died in Hospital with Covid in 2020.

She told BBC Radio Foyle’s North West Today that watching the inquiry brought a mixture of emotions.

“Some days we left sort of feeling very deflated, we felt that the line of questioning didn’t go deep enough, other days we felt we had a result,” she said.

Referencing the use of a cross-community vote within the executive on whether to extend restrictions in autumn 2020, Ms Myles said: “We just keep coming back to the green and the orange”.

“I just can’t believe in 2024 that we’re still here.”

On the attendance of senior Sinn Féin figures – including First Minister Michelle O’Neill – at the funeral of Bobby Storey, she said it was “absolutely wrong” and “morally bankrupt”.

Ms Myles said she did not accept that Ms O’Neill “had to use hindsight to see that”.

However she added that during Ms O’Neill’s apology at the inquiry, she “came across as contrite.. [and] sincere, but I can’t speak to will that translate into any direct change”.

‘Doesn’t bring mum back’

Lizzie Lyle’s mother Alison McKinney died in August 2021, at the age of 56, she attended the inquiry along with her husband Timmy Lyle.

Lizzie told BBC Radio Foyle’s North West Today she said goodbye to her mum for the final time through a small window into her room in an intensive care unit, speaking through an intercom system.

“That just broke me,” she said.

Reacting to Ms O’Neill’s apology at the inquiry she said: “I don’t believe her”.

“Maybe it is heartfelt, and maybe she really is sorry for what she done, but that’s not going to bring my mummy back.”

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