Tuesday 27 September 2016

'I want to make sure I have the evidence right' - Inquest into death of Aibha Conroy (6) adjourned

Liz Farsaci

Published 24/09/2015 | 19:59

Aibhe Conroy, who died in hospital aged six in 2011
Aibhe Conroy, who died in hospital aged six in 2011

The inquest into the death or six-year-old Aibha Conroy from Gowla, Co. Galway was tonight adjourned until October.

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Dublin Coroner Brian Farrell said that, prior to the afternoon’s proceedings, he fully expected to give a verdict today. However, certain matters arose as part of the closing remarks from the legal teams, and the inquiry was adjourned.

Mr. Farrell apologised profusely to the family for the delay in the verdict but insisted that the integrity of the Coroner’s Court be maintained.

"I must apologise to the family and everyone here," said Mr. Farrell today.

"I came in today thinking we would conclude the inquest.

"I must protect the integrity of the inquest. I want to make sure I have the evidence right."

Kathleen and John Conroy with their daughter Sorcha
Kathleen and John Conroy with their daughter Sorcha

The Conroy family’s solicitor, Damien Tansey, urged the Coroner to give a verdict of medical misadventure.

Noting that this had been a long inquiry, Mr. Tansey, in his closing remarks said, "The Conroy family has not been intent at pointing the finger of blame at anyone.

'It is rather to get some answers to the tragedy that engulfed their family in December 2011."

Referring to Kathleen and John Conroy, Aibha's parents, Mr. Tansey said they are 'two extraordinary, outstanding people ... salt of the earth.'

'It was a vindication of Aibha that spurred them on to launch this inquiry," Mr. Tansey said.

In his closing remarks, Declan Buckley, the legal representative for the HSE, said he was against a verdict of medical misadventure 'because the evidence is simply not there'.

Six-year-old Aibha, from Gowla, Connemara, Co. Galway, died at Temple Street Children’s hospital in Dublin on 14 December 2011. Four days previously, she had been admitted to Galway University Hospital suffering from hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, weakness and vomiting.

Shortly after her admittance to Galway University Hospital on 11 December 2011, Aibha experienced a respiratory arrest and suffered brain damage. She was transferred to Temple Street later that day.

A number of doctors and nurses involved in providing care for Aibha spoke at the inquest throughout this week, as well as expert witness Dr. Susan O’Connell, from Cork University Hopsital.

On Wednesday, Caroline Ni Chonghaile, Aibha’s teacher, also spoke at the inquest.

She said that, at the start of the school year in September 2011, Aibha’s mother, Kathleen Conroy, mentioned that she was expecting referrals for Aibha to Crumlin hospital very shortly. Because of this, she was expecting that she would have to take both Aibha and her sister out of school for a few days with little or no notice in order to make the visit to Dublin.

Ms. Ni Chonghaile told the inquest that, on the first day of term that autumn, Mrs. Conroy also told her about Aibha’s health issues, and requested that the school keep a bottle of Lucozade on the premises for Aibha, because it helped her feel better when she felt unwell.

The school follows a healthy food policy and so fizzy drinks are not normally allowed but Ms. Ni Chonghaile and her principal decided that in this case, they could make an exception.

Later that day, and on three other occasions, Aibha became unwell.

On all these occasions, she complained of a headache, became flushed and her ‘eyes were very glazed, very watery’ said Ms. Ni Chonghaile. On all these occasions, Aibha was given some Lucozade and recovered within about 30 minutes.

Aibha’s death was very upsetting to herself, the school and community, said Ms. Ni Chonghaile.

She said members of the community are very close and most of them would use Irish as their primary language – Aibha was fluent, as is her sister. 

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