The first witness to give oral evidence at today’s Belfast hearing was Nigel Hamilton of Haemophilia Northern Ireland. Nigel and his twin brother Simon founded Haemophilia Northern Ireland in 2017. Nigel has been actively involved in campaigning for victims of the contaminated blood scandal for many years.
During his evidence, Nigel said that he was given a contaminated batch of Factor VIII in 1976 before an eye operation to correct a squint. Nigel told the Inquiry how in the early 1980s haemophiliacs were called to the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast for a meeting. Those attending the meeting were told that the AIDS virus was found to be present in the some blood products they had been receiving and that they had a choice as to whether they wished to be tested for the virus.
Nigel also discussed how he believed pharmaceutical companies needed to be held to account in the part they have played in providing the contaminated blood products.
In his closing evidence, Nigel described the financial disparity between England the rest of the UK pointing out that if he lived further south in Ireland a different level of compensation would have been provided.
The second witness to provide oral evidence to the Inquiry today was anonymous witness Mr I. Mr I told the Inquiry that he was a moderate haemophiliac and at the time of receiving contaminated blood products, he was just 2 years old.
Mr I described the emotional impact of having to live with the hepatitis C virus. Mr I said that he struggled to socialise with friends. Mr I’s mother was also infected with the hepatitis C virus and Mr I disclosed the issues she had in regards to stigma she has faced.
Concluding his evidence Mr I said that he believed that individuals infected and affected by contaminated blood needed a thick skin to deal with the financial assistance system that is currently in place.
The third witness to give evidence to the inquiry today was anonymous witness known as Ms J. Ms J is a symptomatic carrier of haemophilia. Ms J has had over five major haemorrhages and as a consequence had to receive multiple doses of Factor VIII, Factor IX and Cryoprecipitate.
Ms J told the Inquiry that she did not discover she had hepatitis C until she attended a routine appointment at the Haemophilia Centre when she was casually asked how she was coping with the hepatitis C virus.
During her evidence Ms J explained the difficulty she faced receiving treatment for her hepatitis C at the same hospital she was working in. She felt an enormous amount of prejudice and stigma attached to hepatitis C amongst the medical profession.
Christina McLaughlin, Patricia Kelly and John Conway
The final witnesses to give evidence to the Inquiry were the siblings of the late Seamus Conway. Seamus was a haemophiliac who had contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood products.
Sister of Seamus, Christina McLaughlin, told the Inquiry how her brother enjoyed playing football but due to his haemophilia chose to pursue snooker instead. Mrs McLaughlin described how Seamus became a talented snooker player and went on to beat professional snooker player Jimmy White.
The siblings of Seamus Conway told the Inquiry how he unfortunately developed cirrhosis of the liver that later developed into cancer. Seamus sadly passed away last year.