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Tánaiste must explain State attitude to Frances Sheridan inquest - Ó Caoláin

31 May, 2006


Sinn Féin Health and Children spokesperson and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, to explain to the Dáil and to the family of Frances Sheridan the State's attitude to the second inquest into her death and the apparent contradiction between the position of the Attorney General and that of the Health Service Executive.

Frances Sheridan died in 2004 following her discharge from Cavan General Hospital. At her first inquest last year evidence showed that the full recorded facts of her condition, including an earlier appendix operation, were not known to those who attended her in Cavan before her discharge and subsequent death. At last year's inquest the coroner directed the jury to return a verdict of death by misadventure but they returned 'natural causes'. The Attorney General ordered a second inquest but today the Health Service Executive has tried to prevent that second inquest from going ahead by challenging the position of the coroner Dr. Flanagan. They have argued that she should not preside at the second inquest, having already presided at the first.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated, "The family of Frances Sheridan felt vindicated when the Attorney General ordered a second inquest. It is quite extraordinary that the Health Service Executive -- an arm of the same State whose chief law officer ordered the second inquest -- should now seek to prevent that second inquest from proceeding. The actions of the HSE suggest their intent to remove Dr. Flanagan from this case.

"The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children must now explain to the Sheridan family and to the Dáil what is the State's attitude to this inquest. Both the Attorney General and the HSE are charged with protecting the interests of citizens. Why are they acting, apparently, at cross purposes?

"Profound questions were raised by the stark difference between the summing up of the coroner and the verdict of the jury in the first inquest. The coroner directed the jury to return a verdict of death by misadventure but they returned 'natural causes'. That was central to the calling of a second inquest. The grief of the Sheridan family has now been compounded by this further complication at the second inquest. The Tánaiste must come clean on this matter." ENDS

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