TD to raise questions over loss of samples from Limerick family amid alleged ‘cover-up’

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Pat and Nuala Geoghegan outside the Department of Health recently

Pat and Nuala Geoghegan outside the Department of Health recently

OVER 20 years after the investigation into animal and human health problems in the Askeaton area, questions are again to be raised in the Dáil about the loss of samples given by the Geoghegan family during that investigation.

Independent TD for Clare and GP, Dr Michael Harty is to table the questions as a result of a dossier compiled and given to him by West Limerick couple, Pat and Nuala Geoghegan and which he has passed on to Health Minister Simon Harris.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader this week, Deputy Harty said he had asked Minister Harris, “in the light of the new information” to have the situation assessed with a view to setting up a public enquiry.  

He had met the Geoghegans, he said, and was impressed by what they told him.

“I was struck by the fact they were not getting answers to what happened to them, what happened to the samples,” he said.

However, Deputy Harty, who is chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health said the committee had decided it would not be conducting an investigation into the matter. “The committee didn’t feel they were the appropriate body to investigate an historic issue like this,” he said. “The Health Committee has no investigative powers.”

In the 1990s the Geoghegans were one of a number of farm families included in the investigation, led by  the Environmental Protection Agency, into animal and human health problems in the area. They gave samples of blood, hair etc in 1997/97 but  were told in 1999 that the samples had been lost and demanded that this be investigated.  

In  2001, following a year long internal review carried out by the then Mid-Western Health Board, the review concluded the loss of the samples was entirely the result of human error and flatly ruled out the possibility of a conspiracy.

But, as Pat Geoghegan explained to the Leader, they were very unhappy with the results of this  internal review, arguing that it was neither independent nor transparent. A key argument and conclusion of the review was that the samples were not germane to the wider investigation.

However, the Geoghegans now believe that a letter, obtained by them through Freedom of Information, shows two things: that the samples were indeed part of the investigation and also that some results were obtained, results which they were never told about and never got.  

A fortnight ago, the couple protested outside the Department of Health in Dublin in a bid to highlight their case.

They are now demanding that the wider investigation or public enquiry denied to them almost 20 years ago should go ahead as they are convinced there has been a cover-up to protect high-ranking officials.