Establish commission to investigate baby and maternal deaths and injuries, campaigners urge Harris

Parental groups alliance met with politicians to call for actions to ‘try to stop these repeated deaths and injuries in Irish hospitals’

An alliance of organisations representing parents and babies who have died has called on Taoiseach Simon Harris to establish a commission of investigation in baby and maternal deaths, and catastrophic birth injuries.

The alliance, which includes Safer Births Ireland, Féileacáin, Aims Ireland and The Birth Rights Alliance, met politicians on Tuesday afternoon to call for actions to “try to stop these repeated deaths and injuries in Irish hospitals”.

In their letter to Mr Harris, the alliance said “something in Irish maternity services simply is not working”.

“Babies and mothers are dying as a result, babies are left with lifelong disabilities, hearts are being broken. It is long past the time for this to stop,” the letter said.

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The members of the alliance are or know a family which has been affected by the loss of a baby.

“While such a loss is a bitter burden to have to shoulder, that burden is harder to bear knowing something could have been done to avoid their deaths and injuries,” they said.

“There has been a substantial number of avoidable baby deaths since 2013, as documented by media reports on inquests held.”

The letter has more than 600 signatures, while the online petition has more than 1,400 signatures.

“We sign this letter in the genuine hope that this will be the first step in yet another attempt by another generation of grieving parents to try and stop these repeated deaths and injuries in Irish hospitals despite the constant assurances, promises, recommendations, guidelines and reports and reviews that have done little to stop this tragic death toll,” it added.

Safer Births Ireland was co-established by Claire Cullen, whose firstborn son Aaron Ben Cullen died in 2016, five days after his birth at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.

In 2020, Ms Cullen settled a case against the HSE in relation to his death, but has continued to “patch together a puzzle into how he died”. She has focused on non-disclosures and sent out several Freedom of Information requests.

As a result of this, she was told an inquest into his death would be reopened this year,

“I’m just awaiting a date. It will probably be October or November, realistically, if it’s this year,” she said.

It has been almost eight years since her son’s death, and she said she has spent that time “fighting for answers”.

“It compiles your trauma. You’re not able to grieve what you’ve lost when you don’t know why it happened. It takes years to process it,” she said.

“I have a six-year-old son and I love him with my whole being, and I can show him that. But I have a son in heaven, who has passed, and the only way I can do anything for him is to fight in his name and change the system.”

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times