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Bereaved families in NI reveal pain endured during Covid lockdown and say Boris Johnson should resign over party

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Anne's sister, Jill Monteith, and their dad, Tom Madden, pictured.

Anne's sister, Jill Monteith, and their dad, Tom Madden, pictured.

Yvonne and Graeme Weeks.

Yvonne and Graeme Weeks.

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Anne's sister, Jill Monteith, and their dad, Tom Madden, pictured.

People who were deprived of seeing their loved ones in their final days have shared moving accounts of the pain they endured and called on Boris Johnson to resign over his attendance at a Number 10 Downing Street lockdown party.

Families throughout Northern Ireland were denied an opportunity to say goodbye and to comfort the sick and dying. Women had to endure labour alone whilst fathers were denied access to their partners and newborn children.

They have expressed their “disgust” at the actions of Downing Street staff who held a party while they adhered to the government-enforced rules.

The Tory party is in turmoil as speculation has arisen that the Scottish arm of the Conservative party could break away after its leader Douglas Ross urged the Prime Minister to resign.

Boris Johnson has issued an apology to the public for a party held on May 20, 2020 and Downing Street a separate apology to Buckingham Palace after it emerged that another Number 10 party was held the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last year.

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The first UK lockdown was announced on March 23, 2020 and a phased reopening of society began in June 2020.

On May 20, 2020, an invitation was extended to just over 100 Downing Street staff at a time when social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place.

On the day the May 20 ‘bring your own booze’ (BYOB) gathering took place in the Downing Street garden, five more Covid related deaths were announced in Northern Ireland.

By that stage, around 4,500 people had tested positive for the virus in NI, there were 669 Covid inpatients in hospitals, with 18 in Intensive Care Units (ICU).

In care homes, 70 older people were confirmed to have Covid-19 and 34 more suspected cases, at a time when they were unvaccinated and the mortality rate was high.

Newtownabbey woman, Jo Greer, was unable to visit her dying husband in hospital. She said it is time for Boris Johnson to resign.

“He needs to go. Myself and my three children were not allowed to visit my husband for near four months due to Covid rules,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

“My husband had a serious brain injury caused by a fall in October 2019, he passed away the end of August 2020.

“Myself and my kids missed out on four months of visiting due to rules but this man and his cronies are allowed to do as they want - disgusting. All of them at that party should be sacked.

“Myself and my three kids lost nearly four months of seeing their dad and what is coming to light now is making our grieving process worse.

“When we were in lockdown and I couldn’t see my husband, I remember for weeks not being able to sleep. As when I did close my eyes, I would wake myself up crying as in actually sobbing for him.

“I called the hospital and pleaded with them to let me see him as he had been with them since October 2019 and they firmly said no because of the rules. The government is an absolute joke.”

Bangor woman, Barbara Boyle, said she has lost family due to Covid and cancer and couldn't attend any of the funerals due to lockdown.

“This is real suffering. I am appalled how flippant people in power acted during the pandemic. BYOB says it all.

“Hearing the debate brought back a lot of the sadness I felt when lockdown didn't allow any travel. Not being able to attend the funeral was very sad as I couldn't comfort my family and friends and be comforted.”

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Anne's sister, Jill Monteith, and their dad, Tom Madden, pictured.

Anne's sister, Jill Monteith, and their dad, Tom Madden, pictured.

Anne's sister, Jill Monteith, and their dad, Tom Madden, pictured.

Anne Madden could not visit her father in a nursing home on May 20 and he sadly died a number of months later. She said: “I’m upset and angry that we obeyed the rules when my dad was locked up in a nursing home in Belfast and thought his family had abandoned him.”

Ms Madden shared a photo taken on May 21, 2020, when her father only had five more months to live.

She said ‘the party is over’ for the Prime Minister: “I don’t think it requires an ‘investigation’ – wasting taxpayers’ money – the Prime Minister and other government officials who broke the rules, when they made them, should do the honourable thing and resign.”

Other people up and down the country also had to miss out on pivotal family occasions and celebrations such as christenings, birthdays and weddings. But for the greater good, they made these sacrifices.

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Yvonne and Graeme Weeks.

Yvonne and Graeme Weeks.

Yvonne and Graeme Weeks.

Christine Thompson said her daughter Yvonne’s wedding was set for May 20 - which is also both her and her husband Graeme's birthdays - but it had to be cancelled.

“After setting three other dates, they eventually married on 18th October 2020 with only five of us present.

“As we were leaving the hotel that afternoon, the manager was taping the ‘hotel closed’ signs on the doors as yet another lockdown was starting,” Ms Thompson explained.

Boris Johnson has apologised for the “anger and hurt” caused, saying he thought it was a work event, and only attended for 25 minutes.  He recognised Number 10 should be held to the  highest standards, and said he took responsibility for things it did not get right.

The Prime Minister has ignored calls from opposition MPs and from within his own party calling on him to resign.


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