Child deaths inquiry chief apologises for further delay
The chairman of a long-running public inquiry into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland hospitals has said he regrets another delay in completing his report.
John O'Hara QC had hoped to publish findings by the end of this year but has said the time frame is no longer realistic.
In a statement, he said: "It will simply not be possible to finish it this year.
"I regret this and acknowledge that those who are awaiting the report will be disappointed by this news. It will be published at the earliest date in 2017 that I can achieve."
The Hyponatraemia Inquiry was set up in 2004 by the then-minister for health in Northern Ireland Angela Smith after allegations that fatal errors had been made by hospital staff administering intravenous fluids.
The inquiry has investigated the deaths of four-year-old Adam Strain who died in November 1995 ; Claire Roberts who died aged nine in October 1996, and nine-year-old Raychel Ferguson who died in June 2001.
It also examined events following the death of 17-month-old Lucy Crawford April 2000 as well as specific issues arising from the treatment of 15-year-old Conor Mitchell in May 2003.
All five children were being treated at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, although some had been transferred from hospitals in other parts of the region, when they died.
The inquiry chairman, now a High Court Judge, said significant progress had been made on all segments of the report which will be "detailed and extensive".