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Monday 27 January 2020

Pressure on Kenny as Indian ambassador seeks independent inquiry

Ed Carty and Caroline Crawford

THE Government faces mounting pressure over the death of Savita Halappanavar after it was revealed the Indian ambassador will contact the Taoiseach to seek a full public inquiry.

Intervention from President Michael D Higgins, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein has already ratcheted up demands for Enda Kenny to make direct, private contact with grieving husband Praveen.

Mr Halappanavar contacted the Indian embassy in Dublin where he spoke to Ambassador Debashish Chakravarti, who agreed to contact the Taoiseach to request a public inquiry.

Praveen has also asked the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to ask them to use their influence in the case.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Halappanavar said he was determined to lobby for a public investigation because the matter was of huge importance not only in Ireland but also in India.

Earlier, President Michael D Higgins said he hoped women would be safer in the wake of the Savita tragedy.

He urged an investigation that is acceptable to the Halappanavar family, society and the Government.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said this morning that every effort would be made by the Government to support Mr Halappanavar and his family.

"The Government has moved. The important issue here is women's health, it's not politics," she said.

"I hope you accept that I and other women have a direct interest in this. I say what I say in a personal conviction - there are young women going into hospital today, the next day, next week, and I want to know they are safe and what has happened will not happen again."

She also described the comments by President Higgins as "considered, thoughtful, reflective and humane".

The minister was speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil this morning where proceedings were again dominated by the tragedy.

The Government has vowed to press ahead with an HSE inquiry despite Praveen Halappanavar threatening to withhold his late wife's medical notes and refusing to meet the investigation chairman.

He said he has no confidence that he will get justice for his wife.

Caoimhghin O Caolain, Sinn Fein health spokesman, called for an independent inquiry outside of the remit of the HSE.

"We have to say it is reasonable for people to question whether any kind of serious inquiry would ever have been undertaken but for the fact that Mr Halappanavar had gone public with this terrible, terrible story," he said.

"That is an indictment of the system, of the HSE, of the department, of the Government.

"There is no possible credibility for the inquiry currently constituted, and that is not to question the capacity and suitability of those now named to participate.

"It is to recognise that without Praveen Halappanavar's co-operation and perhaps approval for access to critical file notes in relation to his wife's tragic experience that this inquiry will have no future."

Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fail health spokesman, warned that failure to set up an independent inquiry could see the Government facing court action from the Halappanavar family.

"Nobody has confidence in this investigation, and I mean nobody," he said.

Ms Halappanavar, 31, died on October 28, 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

She miscarried and subsequently suffered septicaemia and her husband claims that doctors refused to carry out an abortion as a foetal heartbeat was present.

Inquiry chairman, obstetrics and gynaecology expert Sabaratnam Arulkumaran of St George's, University of London, is to complete an interim report on Mrs Halappanavar's death before Christmas.

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