Varadkar: Public inquiry into handling of Covid 'makes sense'

Varadkar: Public inquiry into handling of Covid 'makes sense'

Tánaister Leo Varadkar is in favour of a national inquiry into how Ireland handled the pandemic but says it should not solely focus on how nursing homes were hardest hit. Photo: Damien Storan

Tánaister Leo Varadkar is in favour of a national inquiry into how Ireland handled the pandemic but says it should not solely focus on how nursing homes were hardest hit.

Mr Varadkar believes a more general inquiry should be held when the pandemic is finally over, warning that “this might not be the last major pandemic in our lifetime."

“We need to learn lessons so we are better prepared if there is a next time," he said.

His comments come after party colleague Fergus O’Dowd called for a Commission of Investigation into nursing homes where large numbers of residents died, similar in style to the Leas Cross nursing home probe. 

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar said: “‘I think a public inquiry into how covid was handled makes a lot of sense but it should not be limited to nursing homes.

“It should look at our response generally as a country.

“At the start of the pandemic, I remember someone saying that we would get about 70% of things right and 30% wrong.

“It’s important that we know what we got right and wrong.

This might not be the last major pandemic in our lifetime so we need to learn lessons so we are better prepared if there is a next time.

“However, I think any inquiry should be well designed and well structured.

“It is about establishing facts and recommendation not ascribing blame to people who always did their best in unprecedented circumstances.

"It should not start until the pandemic is behind us. It’s not over yet.

We need people focusing on the virus, not the inquiry, for the next few months at least.

The least favourable form of review could be a tribunal of inquiry as previous ones have lasted more than a decade and cost tens of millions of euros.

While the Leas Cross Commission of Investigation took just two years, other commissions of investigation have over-run and proved unpopular.

The Commission of Investigation into mother and baby homes lasted six instead of three years.

The point of Leas Cross was to investigate the management, operation, and supervision of the private nursing home in Swords, Co Dublin.

It was the subject of a Prime Time investigation on RTÉ which, in July 2005, exposed substandard living conditions at the home and, as a result, it was forced to close.

A year after revelations, then health minister Mary Harney promised legislation that led to the formation of the health watchdog, Hiqa.

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