The latest stage of an official investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect at Dunmurry Manor care home has been delayed due to the general election, it can be revealed.
The Commissioner for Older People in Northern Ireland (COPNI) is unable to release the responses from authorities to his damning probe due to the upcoming election, he has said.
It is the latest delay to be endured by families of residents of Dunmurry Manor, who are still waiting to find out whether health bosses have accepted any responsibility for the scandal almost 18 months after Eddie Lynch first published his findings.
Mr Lynch released the findings of his explosive report, Home Truths, in June last year when he criticised the owner of the home after he uncovered a litany of neglect and abuse.
He also hit out at the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) as he raised concerns that the regulator did not appear to be aware of a series of issues at the home despite carrying out a number of inspections.
The RQIA has rejected Mr Lynch's findings, with the chief executive of the organisation defending the work carried out by her inspectors.
After he published his report in June 2018, Mr Lynch invited all interested parties to respond to his concerns and recommendations.
His initial intention to provide an update to families in June this year suffered a setback, however, when he said he did not receive enough information from the relevant authorities.
In a letter sent to relatives of residents this week, Mr Lynch said: "As you are aware, it was my hope to provide you with this update in June of this year.
"However, as stated in my previous letter to you, I felt strongly that further information was required from the relevant authorities in respect to a number of the recommendations. I can confirm that the relevant authorities submitted this additional information on October 8, which is currently under review by myself and expert panel.
"I expect this review to be complete by the end of this month.
"However, given the unexpected announcement of the general election on December 12, I feel it would be prudent not to give public comment on such an important issue in the run up to, or immediate aftermath, of the general election.
"Additionally, I believe it would be hugely beneficial to families to have my expert panel in attendance at this meeting."
Mr Lynch has told families he will provide an update to his investigation at the end of January.
Commenting on the delay, Mr Lynch said: "The investigation into Dunmurry Manor was extremely complex. The investigation itself took 18 months and was summarised in a 200 page report and 59 recommendations, made to seven different authorities.
"COPNI and my expert panel received and analysed over 400 responses from authorities. As I stated to families in June, one year on since the publication of Home Truths, following the analysis of the initial responses supplied, I was not fully satisfied with some of the information that I received."
Mr Lynch said he understands the anxiety of the families and stressed that "any delay in this process is not due to a lack of energy or attention by myself and my team".