The grieving family of teenager Sally Maaz received Garda escort from the inquest after members of the Burke family disrupted the hearing

The grieving family of teenager Sally Maaz had to be escorted out of a side entrance by Gardaí after their investigation was completed after protesters disrupted the process.

Ally Maaz (17) from Carrowreagh, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, died at Mayo University Hospital (MUH) on 24th April 2020 after contracting Covid-19.

For the third time, three members of the Burke family have been removed by Gardaí after molesting the coroner, legal teams and Gardaí.

Martina Burke, daughter Jemima and son Josiah of Castlebar, Co. Mayo, cried out accusatory statements about the integrity of the inquest after Mayo Coroner Pat O’Connor returned a verdict of death from natural causes.

Martina Burke also yelled at Sally Maaz’ distraught father, Abdullah, as she was removed from the hearing by Gardaí.

After two days of evidence and lengthy pleadings from legal counsel from both the hospital and the Maaz family, Mr O’Connor was sentenced to death from natural causes.

Mr O’Connor also recommended that the government set up an expert group to review the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.

The coroner also made a number of recommendations regarding protocols in MUH.

In his concluding contribution, Conor Bourke SC outlined the complex medical history of Sally Maaz.

Sally was born with a congenital heart defect and underwent major life-saving surgery shortly after birth.

Mr Bourke said Sally’s condition had begun to deteriorate six months before her death and called for a death sentence from natural causes.

“It continues to be respectfully submitted that there is no basis for a finding of death by accident,” he said.

In his submission, attorney Johann Verbruggen of Callan Tansey Solicitors, on behalf of the Maaz family, said the reasonable verdict was a medical mishap.

Mr Verbruggen said a death sentence from natural causes would “fail to consider the substantial and important evidence of the circumstances and the risks that arose in Sally’s care, exposing her to the virus that killed her”.

Mr Verbruggen was commended by the coroner for his “scholarly” and “scholarly” contributions on behalf of the Maaz family.

Mr. O’Connor described the amount and quality of work done by both legal teams as the most impressive he had encountered in his 33 years as a coroner.

Mr O’Connor, taking up a judgment of natural causes, went on to outline a set of recommendations.

This included the government creating an expert group to review the state’s response to the pandemic “to learn lessons and ensure the state is adequately and properly prepared for any further pandemic.”

He called on the HSE, MUH and the Saolta Group to “take careful note and draw the appropriate lessons from the evidence presented in this investigation”.

The coroner also recommended that MUH, Saolta and the HSE “establish a clear line of responsibility for the care of patients by all clinical staff if they have not already done so”.

Finally, Mr. O’Connor asked MUH to review and update as necessary its protocols for connecting and communicating with patients’ families.

The coroner reached out to Sally’s family and said he always keeps an eye on them when making his decision.

“Regarding Covid, regrettably it is still with us. It is the largest single pandemic the world has ever seen. To date, around 6,500 people have (died) in this country.”

Mr O’Connor said with the vaccines now available, two years into the pandemic, the impact of Covid is less severe.

“Unfortunately, Sally was (sick) at the beginning” when science hadn’t caught up with the disease.

He said most of the people who died from Covid were over the age of 75, others like Sally with health conditions had sadly succumbed to “this terrible disease”.

Mr O’Connor said Covid is a community-based disease. It is not possible to determine where and when Sally contracted the “insidious” virus, which is a “shame on society”.

After the verdict, Mr Verbruggen said Sally’s family found the investigation painful but helpful.

“This investigation allowed the family to ask questions that had kept them up at night for two years. In that sense, it helped with the grieving process and closure.

“However, they heard disturbing evidence of a breakdown in communications, unclear responsibilities and failure to follow protocols.

“It was upsetting for Abdullah and Roula to hear that as it would be for any parent.

“These issues are not specific to Covid-19; they relate generally to the health and safety of patients at Mayo University Hospital.

“We are pleased that the coroner has made recommendations to address these issues and we urge that they be implemented.” The grieving family of teenager Sally Maaz received Garda escort from the inquest after members of the Burke family disrupted the hearing

Fry Electronics Team

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