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Labour leader calls for changes to help CervicalCheck women

Ruth Morrissey, who died on Sunday, was among hundreds of women affected by the controversy.

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TDs held a minute’s silence for campaigner Ruth Morrissey (Oireachtas TV/PA)

TDs held a minute’s silence for campaigner Ruth Morrissey (Oireachtas TV/PA)

TDs held a minute’s silence for campaigner Ruth Morrissey (Oireachtas TV/PA)

Labour leader Alan Kelly said his party will bring forward legislation that will allow dependants of women affected by CervicalCheck to claim for losses instead of going through the courts.

Mr Kelly said he will seek to make changes to the Civil Liability Act which will make it easier for terminally ill women and their families to access support.

He told the Dail that he will do it in honour of prominent CervicalCheck campaigner Ruth Morrissey, who died earlier this week.

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Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul at the High Court in Dublin (Michelle Devane/PA)

Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul at the High Court in Dublin (Michelle Devane/PA)

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Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul at the High Court in Dublin (Michelle Devane/PA)

Mrs Morrissey, who died on Sunday at the age of 39, was among hundreds of women affected by the controversy around incorrect smear test results.

Mr Kelly described the mother-of-one as a “national hero” who fought the state twice.

He added that as part of her legacy, the Government should also ensure that the CervicalCheck tribunal is not adversarial.

“I know what she wanted is the Civil Liabilities Act to be amended to do as I just said, and as the chief justice outlined himself,” Mr Kelly added.

“So we’re going to bring forward that legislation, the Labour Party is going to bring forward that legislation in her honour and I expect you to support it, I expect the House to support it.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is appointing a judge and two other independent members to the tribunal.

It was scheduled to begin in March this year, however was postponed because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Mr Martin apologised to Mrs Morrissey and her family on behalf of the state, and acknowledged the litany of failures in the cervical screening system.

“This government, like the previous government, acknowledges the failures that took place with CervicalCheck programme and are profoundly sorry for what was allowed to happen,” Mr Martin told the Dail.

“Too many women who should be here and enjoying life with their families are gone because of those failings.

“Those of us who were here and have the responsibility of elected office, have a solemn duty to learn the lessons from these errors, to reform the system and to make sure they never happen again.

“This Government will fully implement the recommendations of the Scally and McGrath reports.

This government, like the previous government, acknowledges the failures that took place with CervicalCheck programme and are profoundly sorry for what was allowed to happenMicheal Martin

“We will do so to honour the memory of those who were failed by the programme in the past and to ensure that the CervicalCheck is improved and can save more lives.

“Last July the Oireachtas passed legislation to set up to the CervicalCheck tribunal and the statutory tribunal that will deal with the issue of liability in a non-adversarial way.

“It will give a voice to the women who suffered in silence.

“It is important that our legacy is remembered by allowing the women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal to have access to the supports they need and the compensation they deserve in a non-adversarial way.”

After his statement to the Dail, TDs held a minute’s silence for Mrs Morrissey.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said that Mrs Morrissey “paid the ultimate price” of the failures in the cervical check screening system.

“Instead of holding its hands up and admitting liability, the state joined with US laboratories at fault in dragging a terminally ill woman through the courts, and they fought her tooth and nail every step of the way,” Ms McDonald added.

“Even when Ruth won her case at the High Court, she was hauled before the Supreme Court to suffer one final indignity before she was vindicated.”

She called for the Government to “stop dragging very sick women through the courts”.

Mr Martin said the tribunal was the most effective mechanism to enable women involved to resolve these issues without having to go before the courts.

PA