Boris Johnson party apology: I couldn’t see my mum for nine months during lockdown - I’m very angry

A Portadown woman who was unable to see her elderly mother for nine months during lockdown says she is “very angry” to hear about the revelations of a drinks party at Ten Downing Street during the height of lockdown.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 7:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 7:31 pm
Portadown woman Martina Ferguson and her late mother Ursula Derry.

Martina Ferguson, whose mother Ursula Derry died in January 2021 from Covid, says she was unable to see her for nine months due to care home visiting restrictions.

“It makes me feel very angry,” she said of the revelations about the party at Ten Downing Street. “I think it is deeply disrespectful for families in Northern Ireland and across the UK, when you think of thousands of families that have lost their loved ones in some of the worst imaginable conditions.

“People have died in Northern Ireland alone, they weren’t surrounded by their family, their families were not allowed to comfort them. I just find this absolutely shocking.”

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“The Downing Street party makes me really angry.

“I had a mother in law who was battling cancer at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and I was afraid to go into her house. I was talking to her for several months through the window and from the back garden - the government had us full of fear.

“My own mummy passed away and she went from the morgue to the graveside and we weren’t allowed to have a wake or a proper funeral.”

She noted that funerals at that time, January 2021, were restricted to brief graveside events with a maximum of 15 people.

“We were not allowed a Church service. And this was the same for thousands of families across Northern Ireland.

“We weren’t allowed to sit around and comfort her and share stories - nothing like that.

“I only had my mummy’s funeral memorial mass last week - a year after her death.

“It makes me feel really angry about all these revelations around government parties when millions of families followed the rules and guidance for two years - yet they could not lead by example. I am so angry about all of this.”

She is calling for a judge-led public enquiry in Northern Ireland to establish facts about decisions made by the devolved government and its agencies in the handling of the Pandemic.

“I believe we need accountability. It’s all well and good developing policies, however, who was responsible for making these decisions, implementing and monitoring that policy on the ground?”

“Did it really protect the vulnerable - the young and older - and were all appropriate measures really taken to protect them? I don’t feel my Mummy was protected’’.

Services stopped, assessed needs were not met and are still not being met, she says.

“Did anyone even consider the emotional distress and mental anguish caused to Northern Ireland families?

“We now know that staff and other professionals were allowed to go in and out of care homes without being tested for Covid whilst many loved ones were frightened and died alone without their families comforting them. This is a disgrace. It’s sad and heartbreaking especially when testing was the most effective and recognised strategy to stop the spread of Covid’.

“And who was responsible for overseeing the management and regulating all of this and the guidance issued by the DOH on the ground?”

She also wants an inquiry to ask why Covid death rates were so high in care homes and what lessons could be learned for any future pandemics.

“We need to learn lessons,” she added.

See Martina’s inline petition for a public enquiry here.

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