Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he “expects” an inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic will begin this year.
During the acute phase of the pandemic, thousands of people died from coronavirus and the State brought in an unprecedented number of restrictions on individual liberty to stop the spread of the virus.
Last year, then-Taoiseach Micheál Martin promised a “comprehensive evaluation” that could inform how officials deal with future pandemics and his successor agrees it would be a good idea.
“It is our intention to establish an inquiry into how Ireland managed the pandemic and how we handled COVID,” Mr Varadkar told journalists.
“I think it’s important that we do that.
“It’s not going to be about pointing fingers or ascribing blame. It’s about getting to the truth and understanding what happened; what we did well, what we did badly, what could have been done better.
“Because we can’t assume that this is going to be the last major pandemic in our lifetime.
“In fact, there’s a good chance that within our lifetime we could experience another very serious pandemic and we need to prepare for that.
“That will be the purpose and thinking behind the inquiry.”
The health service is currently treating a large number of COVID patients and Mr Varadkar added that it was important that any inquiry did not distract them from that.
“I am conscious that the pandemic is not over and people are still in hospital today with COVID; people are dying from COVID today,” he continued.
“So, we just need to bear that in mind.
“I’m very conscious that a lot of people who are on the front line dealing with the trouble with our health service at the moment are the same people we’d be asking to come before inquiries and take time out to prepare for their testimony and so on.
“But certainly, the expectation is that we would have that inquiry up and running during the course of 2023.
“Some academic work by the expert group has been done already on that and it’s with the Minister for Health and we’re obviously examining what other countries are doing in terms of their public inquiries as well.”
Main image: The Taoiseach in a face mask. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie