The Tanaiste says the tribunal into CervicalCheck is being established 'in good faith'.
It's after campaigner Vicky Phelan criticised the Health Minister, claiming he rejected concerns raised by the 221+ advocacy group in setting up the tribunal.
The inclusion of the laboratories in the process was also criticised, with Ms Phelan saying they shouldn't have to fight them again.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar says he understand her concerns, but hasn't heard of any other way of proceeding:
221+ published a statement to say they were deeply frustrated & disappointed at the response of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly:
Seven weeks ago exactly we met Minister Stephen Donnelly for the first time to address a number of specific issues outstanding in the State’s response to the past failures of CervicalCheck which remain unresolved some two and half years after the Vicky Phelan case which exposed them to the public.
We left that discussion encouraged that these issues would be progressed and that there would be further consultation in that respect.
We were thus shocked to receive a letter yesterday morning confirming the imminent establishment of the Tribunal in seven days time without any further review of the issues raised. On closer inspection this response is deeply inadequate and goes further than any previous missteps by the State in seeking to disavow the rightful claims of those at a loss due to those failures.
It is light years away from the hope that we had exactly one year ago this week when the then Taoiseach delivered a State apology to these women in the Dáil. That all now seems pointless.
We are at a loss to understand how the Minister would not take the opportunity to work with us to make the Tribunal something that our members might be encouraged to engage with. Instead if changes cannot be made, we will be recommending that 221+ members should not participate in this Tribunal should it go ahead in its current format next week.
We have written to the Minister in response today (copy attached) to set out in detail a number of points of continuing serious concern:
In September, we asked that a non-adversarial route be found for the Tribunal. This has been rejected. The letter in effect sets out the Minister’s view that to hold the labs to account, their negligence needs first to be proven in each case by an individual women who had no relationship with those labs and knew nothing of their role or existence when she accepted the state’s invitation to avail of a screening test. This is not acceptable to our members nor would it be to any right thinking citizen. The Minister might also note that the High Court thought otherwise in its recent decisions on the Carrick case.
In our meeting we had asked that the Minister address the genuine concern that some members, through no fault of their own, would be statute barred from some or all aspects of the Tribunal by the prior delay in its establishment. This has been ignored completely.
We also asked that applicants to the Tribunal who receive an award of redress be allowed to return to the Tribunal in future should they suffer a recurrence of their cancer in the same way as the State has allowed applicants before the Hep-C Tribunal to return where their health deteriorates. We were assured that this would be explored with legal input but we have heard nothing and it is not even referred in this letter.
Closing the door on the failures of Cervical Check is not just about dealing with a specific group of women and events past. It is equally about establishing a basis of confidence in cervical screening in the present and into the future. We would hope the Minister would share a willingness to work together to set that context and remain available to engage with him and his office to that end.
File image: Leo Varadkar