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Ceisteanna — Questions Oral Answers. - Death of Infant.

Thursday, 29 September 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 224 No. 3

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56.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne asked the Minister for Health (1) if his attention has been drawn to reports of a recent meeting of Leitrim county councillors at which Mrs. Florence Dick was present; (2) if he has any comment to make upon Mrs. Dick's statement to the councillors that her baby's body was returned to her, after post mortem, in a cardboard whiskey box and that the infant's remains were unwashed and bleeding; and (3) if he will now order a sworn inquiry to establish the facts in view of the widespread public disquiet concerning this matter.

Mr. S. Flanagan: Information on Seán Flanagan Zoom on Seán Flanagan My attention has been drawn to the reports to which the Deputy refers. From the inquiries I have made into this matter, I am satisfied that the officials of the health authority and the staff of Mohill District Hospital acted in a proper manner. I consider that it would be unjustified and unfair to put them [443] on trial by means of a sworn inquiry. I do not accept that there is public disquiet about the matter and, while I fully appreciate the mother's feelings, I consider that the continuance of unwarranted public discussion about it will serve merely to add to her understandable distress.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey During the course of the Minister's inquiries, from which he is satisfied that neither the staff nor the hospital concerned were guilty of any negligence, did he establish who was responsible for the child's body being sent home to the mother in that condition?

Mr. S. Flanagan: Information on Seán Flanagan Zoom on Seán Flanagan I do not accept the allegations. When given notice of this, I made exhaustive inquiries in regard to the whole matter and I gathered that there was propriety on all sides, that is to say, the officers of the Department of Justice who were mainly concerned and the staff of the local hospital, and I do not accept the renewed charges made by Councillor Mooney in addressing an irregular body because the meeting was called on that day for the express purpose of my attendance. Councillor Mooney did not make any reference whatever to it while I was there and I waited for ten minutes after the meeting had ended, on the steps, and the County Manager was there, and afterwards these allegations, which are unfounded, against the County Manager were repeated. May I say that I am glad I got the opportunity of standing over the County Manager who is a man of integrity and refuting the statement made irresponsibly at the meeting that he put the words into Mrs. Dick's mouth. I am also satisfied that even Deputy L'Estrange's well-known capacity for bleeding will not survive 30 hours after his death. In other words, these allegations are unfounded, both against the County Manager and against the staff.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey Zoom on Frank Cluskey I can assure the Minister I am not concerned about Councillor Mooney or the manager. What I am concerned about is that this woman, the mother of the child, went to a public meeting and I think [444] that without any stretch of imagination, one can envisage the mental agony she must have gone through and then endured again in order to see that some investigation was carried out so that responsibility for this disgraceful action of sending the body back to the mother in that condition was laid at the proper door. Surely the Minister can see the advisability of a sworn public inquiry in order to ensure that responsibility is laid at the proper door?

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Is the Minister aware that Councillor Mooney is a Fianna Fáil county councillor and that the Taoiseach thought so much about him that he nominated him as a member of the Seanad?

Mr. S. Flanagan: Information on Seán Flanagan Zoom on Seán Flanagan This is a serious matter and not one for the Deputy—

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange The Minister might not have brought my name into it. I had nothing to do with it. The Taoiseach put the man who made the charges in the Seanad.

Mr. Reynolds: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds As a member of Leitrim County Council, I want it made quite clear that the county council had no responsibility in this case. They left the morgue in the hospital at Moate at the disposal of the Department of Justice, it being up to them to make whatever use they wanted to make of it. The nurses and the matron of that hospital have written letters to the County Manager stating that when this unfortunate child's body came back, there was no need to wash it and that there were no bloodstains on it. That is the position and I agree entirely— and I do not often agree with the Minister for Health—that the matter was raised at the last county council meeting rather unfairly, if I may say so, and that nobody got a chance of making a statement at the meeting, other than the disturbed mother of the child. It is an unfortunate situation and I am sure every member of the House joins me in offering sympathy to her.


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