The daughter of a Belfast woman who died after years battling health problems caused by a contaminated blood transfusion has said the inquiry into the scandal has delivered a “bittersweet” vindication for her family.

Danielle Mullan said it was surreal to read the findings of Sir Brian Langstaff’s inquiry report without her mum Marie Cromie at her side.

Ms Mullan is part of the tight-knit community of families in Northern Ireland affected by the health care disaster.

Another victim, Nigel Hamilton from Islandmagee in Co Antrim, spoke of the “cascade of emotions” he felt receiving the report less than five months after the death of his twin brother Simon, who was also infected by contaminated blood.

The 2,527-page report published on Monday found that the infected blood scandal “could largely have been avoided” and there was a “pervasive” cover-up to hide the truth.

Infected Blood inquiry
Danielle Mullan accused the Government of a disgusting cover up (Liam McBurney/PA)

The probe said patients were knowingly exposed to unacceptable risks of infection as it outlined deliberate attempts to conceal what had unfolded, including evidence of officials destroying documents.

In respect of Northern Ireland, the report highlighted that the region was reliant on blood donated by prisoners and military personnel, two groups associated with higher risk of blood infections.

It also found that authorities in Northern Ireland “brought little independent thinking” to the issue and were content to allow central government to take the lead on all significant decisions related to the scandal.

Ms Mullan, 36, said the UK Government should be ashamed of itself, as she accused the state of a “disgusting” decades-long cover up.

Ms Cromie, a married mother of two and grandmother of two, died last July at the age of 64.

The former school crossing patrol woman contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion she received after the birth of her first child in the 1980s.

She suffered liver failure and had two liver transplants during years of ill health caused by the infected blood.

Her daughter Danielle said the transfusion had a “massive impact” on her mother’s life.

“It took her life away from her, she had two liver transplants as a result of it, multiple health complications, endless hospital stays, it just took her life away from her and subsequently took her away from us as well,” she told the PA news agency.

“She had so many health complications that I think over time we’d sort of started to think she was the Bionic Woman.

EEvery hurdle that was put in front of her, every time we were told she’s not going to make it through, the chances of her surviving this are very slim, and she came through it every time.

“So when it did eventually happen, it happened very quickly, which I think is a bit of a relief for us.

“She had struggled on for so many years that when the time did happen, and when it did come, we were all there with her, we got to be with her for the days leading into it and then she was taken from us.

“Her body couldn’t take it anymore. To be honest with you, I don’t blame her.

“She said a couple of weeks before she actually died that she just wanted to close her eyes and she didn’t want to open them again.

“She couldn’t, she couldn’t do it anymore.

“And, at the time, I thought it was selfish of her, I thought ‘why do you want to leave us’, but looking now seeing what she went through on a daily basis, I can’t blame her for wanting to give up.

“I really can’t.

“It was heartbreaking.

“Seeing her records that I obtained recently, seeing what she went through, was just horrendous.

“I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

Infected Blood inquiry
Danielle Mullan holds an image of her mother Marie Cromie at their family home in south Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms Mullan said the findings of the inquiry report were not a shock to those who have been campaigning for the victims of infected blood for years.

“We’ve known this for years. As campaigners, we’ve known this.

“It was just getting that confirmation that what we have been saying all along was right – the Government covered it as best as they could, but they obviously haven’t covered it very well because it’s all come out now.

“They should be ashamed of themselves, disgusted.

“No amount of apologies or no amount of money is ever going to take away the pain and the suffering for anyone who is still alive or who has passed away.

“It’s not going to bring my mum back to me again. So nothing, nothing they say will ever, ever replace her.”

Ms Mullan said her family do feel vindicated.

“Having Sir Brian come out with this report, and actually say that out loud, that it’s an absolute disgrace, that the Government know fine rightly what they’ve done, and what they’ve done was wrong.

“And now the entire world knows about it, and the Government have nowhere to hide now,” she said.

Ms Mullan said it was imperative the Government paid out compensation to victims and families as soon as possible.

“I don’t feel like I can grieve, I can’t grieve for my mum yet,” she said.

“I’m still representing her, I’m still talking about her. But I’m talking about her in a way that I don’t want to be anymore.

“I want to be able to look back over the years and think of all the good times that we had, not constantly referring back to this situation.

“You know, once the Government pay the compensation, in my eyes, the doors closed, it’s done, we can move on. My mum can finally rest in peace for once.

“I know my mum had things in her mind in what she wanted done with that compensation. And she wanted to make sure that we were all OK.

“But she’s not going to get to see that.

“She campaigned herself for as long as she could, when she was well enough she did interviews, she told her story, and she’s not going to get to see that, she’s not going to get to see their apology.

“She’s not going to get to see the benefits of the compensation coming through. So do the right thing and pay the people what they deserve and let them move on with their lives.”

Ms Mullan added: “We talked about it when she was in hospital prior to her dying, we talked about when the report came out, and what we thought might be said, what Sir Brian might say and, you know, sitting here night, watching it on the TV, it’s a very surreal feeling because, you know, you’re a part of something so monumental in history.

“But sitting here in her house, without her here, is a very, very bittersweet feeling.”

Infected Blood inquiry
Haemophiliac twins Nigel (left) and the late Simon Hamilton when they attended the UK’s Infected Blood inquiry hearings in Belfast in 2019 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Haemophiliacs Nigel and Simon Hamilton both contracted hepatitis C from polluted blood products.

Simon Hamilton, who like his brother was a vocal campaigner on the issue, died on Christmas Day last year.

Nigel Hamilton, who is chairman of Haemophilia NI, said the report was both “healing and supportive”.

“I lost my twin at Christmas Day, I lost two cousins within the past 10 years, I lost two friends within the past two months,” he said.

“We have suffered in Northern Ireland and the production of this report, as it now comes, has been both healing and supportive.

“It recognises the injustices that have taken place.

“It gives us an opportunity to address some of those and try to apply some of the positives that we’re going to find in this.”

Mr Hamilton said while compensation will help, it in itself is not a solution or the answer to the problems faced by victims.

He said: “The other aspect that has come out of this for me is that while I feel the cascade of emotions, positive and negative, I think that it indicates quite clearly that the Government are culpable.

“Successive governments are culpable of neglect, of abandonment.

“And that unfortunately has been a culture which has also been adopted within the health service.”