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Covid Inquiry in the spotlight in the next UTV ‘UP CLOSE’

Uk covid enquiry in UTV’s up close television programme

‘I don't want him to be remembered as a statistic, and I don’t want what happened to him to happen to anybody else’– Julie McMurray whose husband died in January 2021.

The next episode of UTV’s award winning current affairs programme ‘Up Close’ examines the evidence of the recent Covid inquiry, looking at how the Stormont executive and civil service managed the crisis, and hears from three families affected who lost loved ones during the pandemic, in a special investigation which will air on Thursday 30th May at 10.45pm.

Presented by UTV’s Niall Donnelly, the hour-long programme takes a deep dive into the three weeks’ worth of evidence presented at the Northern Ireland stage of the UK Covid Inquiry and analyses the sometimes shocking revelations uncovered during the hearings - the political division during the pandemic, that became apparent during the inquiry, and tensions within the government during that time.

The programme also hears moving testimonies from family members of loved ones who died from Covid.  

UTV’s health reporter Deborah McAleese brought reports to viewers almost nightly during the pandemic, and watched every day of the inquiry as the Ministers, senior civil servants and others gave evidence to the panel, facing tough questions about their decision making at the time.

For this special programme, Deborah has examined the evidence given in its entirety. She brings two reports, which highlight how the pandemic first appeared in Northern Ireland and how the Executive responded in those early days. 

The inquiry revealed WhatsApp messages between senior civil servants claiming there was a lack of leadership in the Executive, and also apparent confusion among Ministers as to who was actually in charge of the response. During the inquiry, senior civil servants spoke of how little was known about the virus in the early stages, the lack of testing, and deaths of the elderly in care homes.  

The inquiry also sadly forced families to relive the trauma of the time.

In a separate report, Alison Fleming, who also produced the programme, hears the personal testimonies of three devastated families who lost loved ones during the pandemic – the son of a fit and healthy 90 year-old woman who died in hospital in the second wave; the mother of a 23 year-old man who died in her arms waiting for an ambulance; and the wife of a man with early onset dementia who had to die alone, confused and distressed that his family weren’t allowed to be with him.

During the programme, Niall will discuss the issues in the studio with Brenda Doherty who represents bereaved families; former civil servant, Ann Watt; Belfast Telegraph journalist and commentator, Sam McBride, correspondent Deborah McAleese and UTV’s political editor Tracey Magee.  

Alison said: “Having brought reports nightly on the inquiry for UTV Live, we felt it only right to analyse the three weeks of evidence and get feedback on it from those who matter most - the families. It laid bare the tensions at the heart of our government.

“This inquiry has only scratched the surface and while nothing can be done to change what has happened, it’s clear those impacted most want lessons to be learned. Thank you to everyone who took part, especially those who talked so openly to us about their experiences.” 

 ‘Up Close – The Covid Inquiry’ will air Thursday 30th May at 10.45pm on UTV.


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