Belfast Telegraph

Down man infected with hepatitis hopes blood scandal inquiry will now get to the truth

By Allan Preston

A Northern Ireland man infected by contaminated blood that killed at least 2,400 people has welcomed an inquiry into the scandal.

Brian Carberry from Downpatrick, who is in his early 50s, grew up with haemophilia, which prevents blood from clotting properly.

Requiring regular transfusions, he was infected with hepatitis C, which has had a devastating effect on his health ever since.

During the 1970s and 1980s the UK imported supplies of the clotting agent Factor VIII from the US.

Some of the samples were infected, with much of the plasma used to make it coming from prison inmates in America who sold their blood.

As a result thousands of patients contracted hepatitis C and HIV.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May announced a wide-ranging inquiry into the NHS scandal, calling it an "appalling tragedy".

Responding to the news, Mr Carberry said: "I think it's excellent. It will answer a lot of questions for so many people.

"I was notified by my consultant in 1991 that I had hepatitis C. I was infected in the early 1980s and wasn't told until my consultant retired and another took over.

"In my case they told me it was something I would live with, but not die from. Now that's changed, as people are dying from it."

Mr Carberry said he believed those responsible for infecting him knew about the risks for years. "They knew in 1980 there were high risks with the blood and yet they were still using it till 1986," he said.

"Hepatitis C destroys the liver, you live with joint pain, fatigue and very low concentration."

As a result he he was also diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2011 and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015. "I have haemophilia, so I get transfusions on a regular basis," he said.

"You always assume all the tests and safety checks are done before they use any product.

"With this inquiry we're hoping for accountability; there's over 2,400 deaths so far. In total, 7,400 people were infected, a good third of them are dead already."

He said he was certain there had been a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth.

"We're looking for justice and proof there's been a cover-up for the last 30 years," he added.

"I requested my medical records and I got the years up to 1979, then from 1991, so they're missing."

Former South Down MP Margaret Ritchie previously campaigned on the issue as part of an all-party group at Westminster.

"It's an absolute scandal that nobody was held to account. I hope that this inquiry will bring some relief to people like Brian, providing some information, truth, justice and adequate levels of compensation so they and their families can live the rest of their lives in peace and harmony," she said.

"But also, if there has been any wilful neglect or crime committed, the individuals or bodies responsible are subject to the full process of the law."

She added: "I'm sorry I'm not in Parliament now as part of the all-party group including my colleague Mark Durkan and the current mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham.

"We kept that pressure on, as we all had constituents who were directly affected."

The announcement came just two days after six party leaders in the Commons - including Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and the DUP parliamentary group leader Nigel Dodds - signed a joint letter calling for an inquiry.

Welcoming the move, Mr Corbyn said that the investigation could lead to prosecutions. "It was obviously a serious systemic failure," he said.

"I think we need the strongest possible inquiry that can, if necessary, lead to prosecution actions as a result, but above all get to the bottom of it."

Downing Street has said it will begin a consultation to decide exactly what form the announced probe will take, such as a Hillsborough-style independent panel or a judge-led statutory inquiry.

In April last year DUP MP Jim Shannon told the House of Commons: "On such a sensitive matter, we need to be able to give our full empathy and sympathy to those affected.

"I really believe that the Government needs to deliver."

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