FIVE years after Miriam Reidy from Ballyhahill died from carbon monoxide in a Kinsale hotel, a full inquest into her death is finally due to take place. Ms Reidy, 35, died on January 9, 2011 and the initial inquest in June 2011 was adjourned. Now, a full inquest is to take place sometime in late January, 2016. When the inquest resumed in Bandon, Co Cork this Tuesday, coroner Frank O’Connell said it would be in the public interest for a full inquest to take place.
His decision has been welcomed by Miriam’s sister Siobhan Barrett. “I feel that is the right decision,” she said. “The way he (the coroner) described it, there was a series of systems failures at the hotel and I would be in agreement with him in that respect. There were a number of safety nets which should have caught Miriam but didn’t.”
But she added: “It is hard to go through the whole thing again. For us, the case is dragging on so long because of the different aspects.” The lead-up to the trial alone lasted several years.
When the trial eventually took place last November, a Cork court Plumber not guilty of manslaughter of Limerick woman a plumber Richard Davis of charges laid against him in connection with Miriam Reidy’s death. Mr Davis was found not guilty of manslaughter and also found not guilty, as director of Davis Heating and Plumbing, of two breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act. The company was also acquitted of two charges over its conduct.
Earlier this year, Siobhan Barrett called for carbon monoxide alarms to be compulsory in all hotels, guesthouses, boarding schools and nursing homes. “I am conscious my sister died in a public place. It shouldn’t have happened,” she told the Limerick Leader at the time. “One small thing that doesn’t cost an arm or an leg but could save lives would be to instal carbon monoxide alarms.” Had there been an alarm in the hotel room where Miriam stayed on that January night, it might have saved her life, she said.
Ms Barrett wrote to the Cork coroner earlier this year, outlining the family’s concerns about the incident which claimed her sister’s life and also left her other sister Patricia struggling for her life and health. And she outlined particular steps which the family felt should be taken to avert similar tragedies. A key step, she explained, would be to make it compulsory to instal carbon monoxide alarms in hotels, guesthouses, hostels, nursing homes and boarding schools where “people are very vulnerable”.
She also felt the regulations should be changed making it unlawful for an unregistered tradesman to instal or service boilers in commercial premises. Currently, the obligation to employ a registered person applies to domestic settings only. And the family also believes hotels should have a log book of any out of the ordinary events.
“Through an inquest, the jury can make recommendations. Those recommendations don’t necessarily have to be enacted but they are out there in the public domain,” Ms Barreet said. But it is her fervent hope that the jury will take on board the family’s concerns and include these as recommendations.
And beyond that, there is the deep-seated hope that change will be initiated at national level and that Miriam’s death will have led to some positive change.
But she asked sorrowfully: “Wouldn’t you think things would have changed in five years?” .