Muckamore Abbey abuse probe: MP in formal push for public inquiry

Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim where a number of staff have been suspended by the Belfast Health Trust. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Muckamore Abbey Hospital in Antrim where a number of staff have been suspended by the Belfast Health Trust. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A DUP MP has formally asked the secretary of state to consider a public inquiry into failings at a Co Antrim home at the centre of a major abuse investigation.

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson also echoed concerns raised by the former chairman of a far reaching review into mental health services in Northern Ireland, who has warned that the problems at Muckamore Abbey Hospital may be “the tip of the iceberg”.

The PSNI has been reviewing tens of thousands of hours of CCTV footage from Muckamore Abbey as part of its investigation, some of which the Belfast Trust has said shows patients being “mistreated”.

Professor Roy McClelland, a former chairman of the 2007 Bamford Review into mental health services, said allegations of abuse at Muckamore suggest there is something wrong with the wider care system.

In an interview with the BBC, Professor McClelland said: “It’s more than just failures within the trust. It strikes me that we may well be looking at the tip of the iceberg.”

He added: “What worries me is that this has been going on for quite a period of time.”

Families of patients at Muckamore Abbey have been calling for a full public inquiry.

Professor McClelland said those calls should not fall on deaf ears.

The families’ calls have previously been backed by the DUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

But the ongoing political deadlock at Stormont means there is no health minister in place to order such an inquiry.

Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, Mr Robinson confirmed that he has now made a formal request for Secretary of State Karen Bradley to consider a public inquiry.

He said: “I agree with Professor McClelland. I wrote to the secretary of state (Karen Bradley) at the start of January, having engaged with her privately just before Christmas.”

In his letter to Mrs Bradley, the DUP MP said: “I was grateful for the private conversation we had concerning the horrendous adverse incident report into Muckamore Abbey.

“As I mentioned, I intended to, and subsequently did, publicly call on you to consider the report, engage with officials of the Department of Health NI, meet with affected families and, given the constraints of the Inquiries Act 2005, assess the options on advancing a public Inquiry.”