Northern Ireland news

Muckamore inquiry: 'Determined' mother died before she could attend public hearings

Families hold photos of their loved ones outside the first public session of an inquiry into Muckamore Abbey Hospital. Picture by Hugh Russell

A MOTHER who died before she was able to attend an inquiry into Muckamore Abbey Hospital was remembered today.

Margaret Lyons died in February, months before public sessions in the inquiry began. Her son Richard was admitted to Muckamore in 1992 when he was 17. He remained at the hospital until 2018. He died on his 46th birthday in February 2021.

Mrs Lyons wanted to put her thoughts about Richard and his time in the hospital into writing "to leave a lasting record for her son", senior counsel to the inquiry Sean Doran said.

In his opening statement today, Mr Doran said Mrs Lyons was "intent on making a statement" to the public inquiry team.

"However, Mrs Lyons herself passed away on February 10 this year," he said.

Inquiry chair Tom Kark visited Mrs Lyons in her home and spoke to her before her death.

"I know that you were touched by her determination to assist the inquiry, even at a time that she herself was very ill," Mr Doran said.

"Mrs Lyons and her son were among many whose lives were affected by the matters that the inquiry will examine who sadly will not be with us as the inquiry proceeds.

"I think it is important that we remember them as we embark on the hearings."

Health minister Robin Swann announced in September 2020 that a public inquiry into the Co Antrim regional facility would be set up.

Speaking before today's hearing, Mr Swann said the inquiry should provide the answers that families and patients need.

"As I stated in September 2020 when I announced my intention to establish an inquiry, patients and families need more than apologies," he said.

"They deserve the truth on what has happened and how it was allowed to happen. I trust that this public inquiry will provide the answers that are required."

DUP MP Gavin Robinson paid tribute to the Muckamore families, including his constituent Glynn Brown from lobby group Action for Muckamore.

"It is nearly five years ago since I was first made aware of the allegations regarding Muckamore and the number of shocking revelations that followed led me quickly to believe that a public inquiry was the only way to shine a light fully on this heartbreaking outrage," he said.

"In February 2019 I challenged the former secretary of state to establish such an inquiry."

He said any lessons learned in the inquiry need to be taken on board by the Belfast Trust.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said the inquiry was "long overdue" and "hard fought" by patients' families.

"Let us hope this process provides the truth, transparency and accountability lacking up until now," she said.

"We need answers on the appallingly poor governance, including why complaints went unanswered and why the use of an unmonitored 'seclusion room' was allowed.

"We must ensure those in the care of our health and social care system are never again subjected to such apparent failures."

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