An inquiry into how the Irish State handled the COVID-19 pandemic is “not a huge priority politically”, according to the former Oireachtas COVID Committee Chair.
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared before a public COVID inquiry this week and denied his Government “let the virus rip across the country”.
In Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has repeatedly said he hopes the terms of reference for an inquiry “will happen soon”.
Despite that, Independent TD and former Oireachtas COVID Committee Chair Michael McNamara said the inquiry is “not a huge priority politically” at the moment.
“The relatives of families of those who died in nursing homes, particularly at the start, deserve an inquiry they need to know exactly what decisions were made, how it impacted upon their loved ones,” he told The Anton Savage Show.
“But I mean, I think that the system politically has moved on from it.
“Obviously if you were the Taoiseach or the Minister of Health, they might have a certain nervousness, or at least a lot of skin in the game.
“But beyond that, I don’t see it being a huge priority politically for the Government."
He said there has been “various delays” in establishing terms of reference for the inquiry and noted Mr Varadkar has previously said it has been difficult to find people to serve on the inquiry.
“We don’t know what [the terms] are yet,” he said. “There hasn’t been a consultation with the opposition as of yet.”
Deputy McNamara said it’s important to understand what decisions were made, who made them, and what impact those decisions then had on the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s easy to examine this stuff with the benefit of hindsight, but obviously, those decisions had to be made very quickly and with limited information,” he said.
“It's important to bear that in mind as well.”
COVID inquiry 'not a blame game'
Immunologist Professor Kingston Mills said the purpose of a COVID inquiry is to help future governments prepare for “the next eventual pandemic that will hit”.
“We weren’t particularly well-prepared,” he said. “There were deficiencies in the system, in terms of PPE, planning and testing in particular, and that persisted for some time.”
Prof Mills also noted, however, that the inquiry should not become a “blame game” among politicians and health experts.
“It's being better prepared for the future not about blaming someone for what happened in the past,” he said.
Mr Varadkar previously said a COVID inquiry in Ireland likely would not happen before March 2024
The current UK COVID inquiry began in June 2023, after Mr Johnson announced plans for it in 2021.
The inquiry sought public hearings with key figures at the time and has investigated documents, reports, phone records and WhatsApp messages.
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