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Bereaved families call on parties to pledge a public inquiry into how COVID19 was handled in Northern Ireland

Portadown woman Martina Ferguson, whose mother died during the pandemic, is spearheading a group asking election candidates to back a public inquiry.

Martina, of Covid 19 Bereaved Families for Justice NI, is urging those standing for election to the NI Assembly, to have a separate inquiry into how the pandemic was handled in NI.

She and colleague Brenda Doherty have written an open letter to all candidates.

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They said: “In NI over 4085 people are grieving the loss of a loved one to Covid 19. Many of us were unable to be with our loved ones in their final months and final moments. We were unable to grieve for them with those closest to us, and unable to lay them to rest in the manner we are accustomed to, and they deserved.

“On the 5th of May 2022 you will ask us to cast our votes. When we, those bereaved during the pandemic, cast ours, we will be casting them with those we have lost in mind. That is why we need assurances from each and every candidate that they will do everything in their power to ensure that mistakes are not repeated, lessons are learned, and our loved ones not forgotten.

“Many of the decisions that have shaped our lives forever were made in NI: Health and social care, education, justice, are devolved matters. Whilst NI will be included in the UK-wide public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic and this will deliver some answers, we want to ensure that the failures of the past are never repeated, lessons are learned and lives saved in the future.

“We aren’t asking for financial compensation, or to apportion blame. We, as you surely do, simply believe that the lives of our loved ones are just as important as the lives of those lost in other parts of the UK. Our mothers, fathers, children and partners deserve to be more than a footnote in a four nation inquiry. They mattered so much more than that.

“That is why, when you come to knock on our doors and ask for our vote, we expect to hear not just consolation for our losses, but the promise that you and your party will prioritise an NI inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in the next administration.

“Let an NI public inquiry form part of our loved one’s rich and varied legacies. In the absence of the commemorations and ceremonies following a death that we hold so dear, legacy, and memory, is all we have.”

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