Since being elected, Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh has sought to use the council as a platform to shine a light on issues which those in power – either in Stormont or Westminster – would want to keep in the darkness. One such issue was the way in which Covid-suspect patients were sent to care homes at the beginning of the pandemic – often before the results of Covid tests were returned to them or known.
Whether coincidentally or not, the regime of inspections of private care homes by the regulator RQIA were discontinued at the same time – meaning no oversight of what happened. Cllr O’Cofaigh regularly used the council to make public reports of what was happening direct from health and care workers as well as relatives. As a result regional papers ended up covering the concerns – concerns that were later confirmed by none other than the political advisor to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings.
To keep up the pressure for truth, Cllr O’Cofaigh raised a motion in the council demanding a full independent public inquiry into what had happened. With its adoption, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council became the first council to make such a demand. In response to this and other public pressure, the Department conducted a limited, in-house investigation of its own and Cllr O’Cofaigh raised a second motion challenging the effectiveness of the investigation and reiterating the call for an independent public inquiry. The demand and fight for truth will continue – given the prolonged nature of the Covid pandemic it is vital that the Dept of Health come clean on what happened and how.