Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that his biggest regret of the last year was the CervicalCheck scandal.
Ireland’s cervical smear services have been in the spotlight since it emerged around 221 women with cervical cancer were not informed that smear test results showing them to be clear were inaccurate, and that revised test results were kept from them.
@221plus welcomes the announcement of the establishment of a Tribunal for the women and families affected by the #cervicalcheckdebacle but urges speedy implementation to avoid further distress for our members. #221plus https://t.co/ICdZnG7zj7— 221+ (@221plus) December 20, 2018
The review into a cervical cancer scandal in Ireland by UK health expert Dr Gabriel Scally found there were “serious gaps” in governance and expertise and failure across the whole system of a cervical screening programme.
It is thought around 20 women have since died.
Speaking to the media, Mr Varadkar reflected that the scandal was a low point for both him and the government.
“In terms of the low points, I don’t know of any one particular day but definitely trying to understand and manage and respond to the Cervical Check scandal was extremely difficult, much more difficult for the women and families affected than for any politician,” he said.
“Just trying to get basic facts and then when we got the facts, trying to explain them and get them across, and trying respond to issues, making the right decisions in a very frenzied period with a lot of misinformation.
“The extreme difficulty that was then compounded by the emotion of very sick women and very distraught families.
“I don’t know if that’s a regret, I regret we didn’t know it was coming, or know more about it in advance, and might have been able to handle it a bit better and might have made some better decisions.”
Mr Varadkar added that he felt the highlight of the year was the historic abortion referendum in May this year.
“I’ll say on the plus side, I felt very privileged to be there in Dublin Castle when the votes were counted on the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment,” he said.
“It was one of those days when you’re reminded why you’re in politics it’s about being a part of making things happen.