Northern Ireland news

Inquest ordered into death of former GAA chief following health service probe

The late John O'Reilly with his wife of 55 years, Angela. This picture was taken three weeks before his death.
Seanín Graham

AN inquest is to go ahead in the death of a former chairman of the GAA's Ulster Council despite a high-level NHS report into his care not being made available.

John O'Reilly (83) from Camlough in Co Armagh, was allegedly attacked while an in-patient at the Gillis Memory Centre in Armagh in December last year.

It is alleged the father-of-seven was assaulted by another male patient in the 24-bed ward for people with dementia.

PSNI detectives and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) are to meet Mr O'Reilly's relatives tomorrow to discuss the case.

The Southern health trust, which is responsible for the centre, commissioned an independent Level 3 Serious Adverse Incident investigation (SAI) but to date this has not been shared with his family or their lawyers.

They are one of seven families in the the north in which concerns have been identified regarding failings in the SAI process.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast yesterday, coroner Joe McCrisken said the absence of the report will not "hold up" an inquest hearing and set a date for January 8 next year.

"SAIs are separate to an inquest because of the way evidence is heard," he said.

"Very often I have issues with some of the conclusions, my witnesses give evidence on oath in court. SAI witnesses do not."

Mr McCrisken added: "The one thing guaranteed in a coroner's court is that you always get an independent chair with the coroner."

Mr O'Reilly's widow, Angela, was present at the hearing along with some of her children. The couple had been married for 55 years.

Well known and respected in GAA circles, he played his first game for Crossmaglen Rangers in 1952 and won the senior championship in 1960 and 1962.

Having quit football in the early sixties, Mr O'Reilly served two terms as Chairman of Crossmaglen Rangers between 1963 and 1971.

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