Women from Portadown and Newtownabbey, whose mothers died during the Covid pandemic, are to host live streaming of former Health Minister's evidence to inquiry

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Portadown woman Martina Ferguson, who lost her mother Ursula Derry to Covid during the pandemic, is part of a group of bereaved relatives hosting a live streaming of the evidence to be given by former Health Minister Robin Swan.

Mr Swann is expected to give evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry this week.

Mrs Ferguson, with Newtownabbey woman Brenda Doherty who lost her mother Ruth Burke during the Covid pandemic, Northern Ireland Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice (NIBFFJ) campaign group.

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Portadown native Ursula Derry with her daughter Martina Ferguson. Mrs Derry died during the Covid-19 pandemic.Portadown native Ursula Derry with her daughter Martina Ferguson. Mrs Derry died during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Portadown native Ursula Derry with her daughter Martina Ferguson. Mrs Derry died during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The group is hosting the live streaming of evidence from both Mr Swann and from Permanent Secretary of the Executive Office, Dr Denis McMahon, on Thursday July 6.

This evidence forms part of Module 1: Resilience and Preparedness Public Hearings’ - at The Resolution Centre from 12.30pm until 4pm.

P.A Duffy and Co Solicitors has been instructed to represent the campaign group, ‘advocating the unique position and vital perspectives of Northern Irish bereaved families’.

Conal McGarrity, director of the law firm, said: “Important lessons need to be learnt and that’s why openness and transparency are crucial throughout this process.”

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Brenda’s mother (Ruth Burke) was the first woman in Northern Ireland to die from Covid in March 2020, having contracted the illness in hospital.

“Bereaved Families welcome the announcement of relevant witnesses from across Northern Ireland being called to give evidence at the Inquiry,” said Brenda.

“The campaign has been growing and we are continuing to bring everyone together with our legal team this time to watch witnesses from Northern Ireland give evidence at the public hearings for Module 1.”

Martina’s mum (Ursula Derry) was a care home resident when she contracted the virus and died in January 2021. Mrs Derry, originally from Garvaghy Park in Portadown, died aged 87. When the first lockdown was introduced in March 2020, Ms Ferguson was only able to visit her mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, through a window.

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“Bereaved families will be hoping that the UK Covid Inquiry call a number of key decision makers across NI to give evidence,” said Martina.

“Nobody wants to be in our position but, seeing as sadly so many of us in Northern Ireland find ourselves missing a loved one, we will come together to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear.

“We, as bereaved families will continue to honour those we have lost by making sure that everything is done so people in the future don’t go through what we’ve all experienced."

To date, the ‘Module 1: Resilience and Preparedness Public Hearings’ have heard evidence from relevant witnesses to examine the resilience and preparedness of the United Kingdom, assessing if the pandemic was properly planned for and whether the UK was adequately ready for that eventuality.

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This module will touch on the whole system of civil emergencies including resourcing, risk management and pandemic readiness. It will scrutinise government decision-making relating to planning and seek to identify lessons that can be learnt.

Families who have lost a loved one to Covid-19, or would like to join the campaign group, can do so by emailing [email protected] or [email protected] or calling 028 8772 2102.