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Coroner criticises HSA over investigation delay

Coroner criticises HSA over investigation delay

Anton McNulty

The Coroner for south Mayo has called for greater accountability within the Health and Safety Authority after criticising the delay in investigating the death of Charlestown man in a work related accident.
Joseph Walsh (48) of Cloonaughill, Charlestown died on November 19, 2010 following an accident at his workplace at the Western Brand Chickens factory in Ballyhaunis. An investigation was initiated by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) but the investigation has not yet been completed.
Coroner for south Mayo, John O’Dywer expressed concern with the delay taking place and said he was not satisfied with the way the HSA were conducting their affairs. He explained that on August 24 last he received a letter from PJ Murphy of the HSA who informed him the investigation was complete and the file would be forwarded to the DPP.
On November 7 last he received a similar letter from Bernadette Gannon, the investigation inspector of the accident but on April 17, 2012 he received a letter from Ms Gannon where she explained that they were in preparation for the file to go to the DPP.
Questioning Ms Gannon, the coroner said the family had concerns over the delays and asked ‘what in God’s name is going on?’
Ms Gannon explained that there are three stages to an investigation into a death and the first two were the investigation into a death and the preparation of the file. She said the third part was the preparation of the file to go to the DPP which is taking place.
When asked when will the file go to the DPP, she replied ‘I don’t know’ and said she could not comment further on the matter.
Mr O’Dwyer expressed his frustration on the matter and said he felt the HSA were not making the information available and this was an issue of accountability. He said it was 18 months since the death and the family of Mr Walsh wanted to put their affairs in order and that could not be done until the inquest is completed.
When he asked Ms Gannon if the HSA were short-staffed, she said she would not answer the question. Mr O’Dwyer said he wanted to know when the file would be forwarded to the DPP and asked if he adjourned the matter for four weeks would Ms Gannon have the answers. She said she did not have that information but when pressed on who would, she said the CEO, Martin O’Halloran may have that information.
Mr O’Dwyer added that ‘perhaps he can come [to the inquest] and tell us’ before adjourning the inquest for a month.

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