Up to 15 public and private nursing homes are facing legal proceedings for wrongful death and negligence, thecan reveal.
Law firm PA Duffy says it has 40 clients who want to sue in relation to their loved ones' treatment in nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The firm is also seeking a full public inquiry and a separate human rights investigation under section 35 of the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014.
More than half of the 4,357 deaths from Covid-19 have been residents in nursing homes while, in January and February this year, there were more than 200 nursing home outbreaks, adding up to over a third of deaths.
The first nursing home to be sent legal letters is Ballynoe Nursing Home in Cork, according to solicitors representing families of the bereaved. More than 22 people died after an outbreak there in January. Not all the deaths were linked to Covid-19.
PA Duffy is representing four of the Ballynoe families, including the family of Jimmy Lee, an 81-year-old who died of Covid in the home last month.
Enda McGarrity of PA Duffy told thehis firm had been instructed in cases against up to 15 care homes throughout Ireland.
The cases involved deaths, serious injuries, and "a general deterioration in the health of many extremely elderly and vulnerable residents of public and private care homes throughout the pandemic," Mr McGarrity said.
He said clients had been left traumatised by their loved ones' treatment and by "the failure of the Government to implement adequate policies in accordance with their statutory obligation to protect the health and wellbeing of its citizens."
A spokesperson for CareChoice, which runs Ballynoe Nursing Home, said: “CareChoice has not received the four letters of claim to which your email refers.
“The care of our residents is CareChoice’s number one priority at all times and has been throughout the severe Covid19 outbreak in our Ballynoe nursing home.
“The onset and duration of the pandemic has been extremely difficult for the residents of all nursing homes, for their families, and for carers."
The spokesperson pointed out that Ballynoe was entirely Covid-free until January 2021.
Majella Beattie, who runs the advocacy group Care Champions has called for a public inquiry, saying her group has referred families to Hiqa, the Ombudsman and the gardaí.
“This is our next institutional abuse scandal. It is our next mother and baby homes," she said.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said in the Dáil last month that, after Covid, there should be "a full evaluation" of how this happened, but stopped short of committing to a public inquiry.