The leader of the main opposition party in Ireland has raised concerns that documentation relating to the cervical cancer controversy may end up being withheld from the public.
Micheal Martin, the leader of Fianna Fail, said it was very important that parliamentary committees can investigate the circumstances surrounding why women were not informed about the results of their own test.
“There appears to be an agenda to try and push public accounts to one side and other Dail committees,” Mr Martin said.
“We got a commitment from the minister that no attempt would be made to prevent the publication or Dail committees doing its work in relation to this and the inquiry would not be an attempt to bury information from the public domain.”
It’s very important that the government doesn’t try to muzzle a key committee in the house.Micheal Martin
The Government has ordered a preliminary inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding inaccurate smear test results and the communication of those results to patients.
Dr Gabriel Scally, who is leading the investigation, expressed concern on Tuesday about what he described as the “current fevered atmosphere”.
He said some key individuals and organisations are being distracted by the necessity to appear before Oireachtas committees and answer questions.
Mr Martin said the committees needed to be allowed to continue their work.
“It’s very important that the government doesn’t try to muzzle a key committee in the house,” he said.
“Whether you agree or disagree with what they do, how they do it is beside the point.”
Two parliamentary committees – the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Health Committee — have begun looking into the controversy and there has been debate about which one should be handling the matter.
Education minister Richard Bruton said he could assure Mr Martin that no documents would be withheld from those who want to inquire into what has happened.
“There is no attempt by this Government to restrict access to information,” he said.
“The fact that the PAC is receiving information shows that there is no attempt to withhold any information.
“Nor is there any attempt to confine the work of Oireachtas committees.”
He said it is up to the committees how they conduct their business.
Mr Bruton told the Dail he wanted to express his shock and sympathy “to the people who have been so appallingly affected” by the controversy.
“The non-disclosure was a major failure of public policy, given that it was HSE policy from back in 2013,” he said.
“What is equally categorically clear is that this never came to the attention of any minister.”