Saturday 17 November 2018

Eilis O'Hanlon: Savita inquest uncovered the facts, but verdict has set stage for further furore

Both sides in bitter abortion debate are set to resume hostilities as widower takes his case to Human Rights Court

Eilis O'Hanlon

IN THE beginning, it seemed that the best course of action might be to instigate a full public inquiry into the death of Savita Halappanavar. Her husband, Praveen, wanted it. The family's lawyers were pressing strongly for it. International opinion, particularly in India, was very much distrustful not only of Ireland's ability to find the truth about what happened to this young woman in University Hospital Galway, but whether it had the will to do so, while the independent inquiry set up by the HSE under Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran was being rubbished by many even before it had begun its work.

It would have been understandable if the Government had concluded that handing the whole matter over to a public inquiry would be the simplest way to wash its hands of a potentially explosive problem. Instead, the Government held out fast against those calls, fearing that, once all the participants lawyered up in the heat of legal battle, an inquiry would become prolonged and politicised and, yes, costly, because that matters too, and it might do more damage than good.

And now that the inquest into Savita Halappanavar's death has concluded in Galway, it should be acknowledged that they were proved right. It was possible to get to the truth of what happened to Savita using the ordinary methods of inquiry available to the State. What's more, it could be done relatively quickly. If we had gone down the route of a public inquiry, it might still be dragging on. It might even have barely got started. And there would still have needed to be an inquest afterwards.

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