BREAKING: Mayo Coroner abandons inquest after attempting to remove a member of the public from courtroom
Patrick O'Connor (Mayo County Coroner) demanded that Josiah Burke identify himself or be removed by Gardaí from the inquest into the death of Sally Maaz, a 17-year old student who died after she was wrongfully admitted to a Covid Ward in Mayo University Hospital.
It is a public right in Ireland to attend an inquest - a public enquiry into the cause of an unexplained, sudden or violent death.
The inquest into the death of Sally Maaz was scheduled to take place today in Ballina. Sally Maaz died in Mayo University Hospital on 24 April 2020. She had been placed in a Covid ward despite twice testing negative for Covid-19.
At the beginning of today's proceedings in Ballina, the coroner, Patrick O'Connor, demanded that all members of the public identify themselves to the court. There is no obligation upon a member of the public to identify themselves to a court.
I, Josiah Burke, was present in the court. I declined to give my name, identifying myself as a member of the public.
The coroner, Patrick O'Connor, repeatedly demanded in a threatening manner that I provide my name. After I continued to respectfully decline, he demanded that the Gardaí remove me from the court. It is unlawful for the Gardaí to remove a member of the public from a public court for no reason.
The coroner, Patrick O'Connor, said he would rise until the Gardaí had removed Josiah Burke. During this time, a Garda ushered solicitors, witnesses and a hospital representative into a private room to speak with the Coroner in private, away from public view.
After Gardaí did not arrest or remove Josiah Burke, the Coroner returned to the Court and adjourned the inquest.
The Coroner also threatened Jemima Burke that he would "deal with that" - after revealing to all present (including journalists, Gardaí and solicitors) that Ms Burke had "had the cheek to contact him" the week before.
Jemima Burke had emailed Mr Patrick O’ Connor for confirmation of the date, time and location of the public enquiry.
With no information forthcoming, Ms Burke had finally called O'Connor on Saturday afternoon, the 17th of October. She was shocked when the Coroner abruptly hung up the phone after she requested the list of inquests taking place in County Mayo.
What is a grave matter, the untimely death of Sally Maaz, is now even more serious and concerning given the events of today.
The Burkes were the only members of the public present, outside of the Coroner, Gardaí, media and parties involved (i.e. HSE representative and family).
The Coroner was visibly agitated at the Burkes’ presence. He asked for all of their names - and threatened to have two of them removed by Gardaí.
It is of grave concern that a Coroner would instruct the Gardaí to remove a member of the public from a public inquest - something the Gardaí cannot and did not do.
The situation in our hospitals and nursing homes around the country is grave. People are losing their lives behind closed doors. The situation is made graver still by the deplorable behaviour of Patrick O’Connor in Ballina today.