Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar says he should have been more clear on CervicalCheck court pledge

Ruth Morrissey appeared at the High Court last week as she is suing over the incorrect reporting of two smear tests carried out in 2014.

Leo Varadkar has said he should have been “more clear” when he made a promise that no other women impacted by the CervicalCheck scandal would have to go to court.

The Taoiseach faced criticism from Vicky Phelan, a terminally ill mother who took a legal case, who called for a meeting with Mr Varadkar to discuss the ongoing court case of Ruth Morrissey.

Mrs Morrissey, who is also terminally ill, appeared at the High Court last week as she is suing over the incorrect reporting of two smear tests carried out in 2014.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Varadkar said he was “very sorry” Mrs Morrissey has cancer and was not told of the audit when she should have been.

He said he was limited as to what he can say during an ongoing court case but added that the Government wants all cases to be settled by mediation so women can avoid a court trial.

Mr Varadkar said, however, that any woman has a constitutional right to go through with a court case.

He said: “In relation to Mrs Morrissey – I am very sorry she has cancer.

I hope the treatment she is getting is successful so she can see her daughter grow up and I think that is the most important thing Leo Varadkar

“I am sorry for her and her family and that it wasn’t picked up earlier on screening and she wasn’t informed of the audit when she should have been.

“I hope the treatment she is getting is successful so she can see her daughter grow up and I think that is the most important thing.

“This is an ongoing court action. I am not in hiding but I am limited as to what I can say. I don’t want to say anything that will prejudice the outcome.

“What the Government wants is that all cases are settled by mediation so that women can avoid a court trial.”

Mr Varadkar said he spoke to Attorney General Seamus Woulfe and asked him to speak to the State Claims Agency to ask that mediation can be resumed in Mrs Morrissey’s case.

He added: “That is a constitutional right and I perhaps should have been more clear about that back in May, acknowledging that people have a constitutional right to go to court if they feel it is in their best interests.

“No government can take that away, nor should any government want to take that away. And in some cases things go to court because the facts are disputed.

“In this case the state has accepted its liability, has accepted its liability for failing to disclose the audit, the fact that the women weren’t told about the audit when they should have been by CervicalCheck and by their doctors.

“But as I understand it there is a complication in this particular case as negligence has not yet been established in relation to the screening of the particular smear tests.”

It emerged in April that an audit by the CervicalCheck screening programme of 1,482 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008 had found potential errors in earlier smear tests in 209 of the cases, with results showing no abnormalities when they should have flagged a cancer warning.

Ms Phelan, who settled a High Court action for 2.5 million euro after being incorrectly told in 2011 that her smear test had a negative result for cancer, said she is seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Varadkar.

I want the Taoiseach to stand up and do something to protect these women. It is inhumane to watch Vicky Phelan

Speaking on RTE, Ms Phelan said she was “shocked” to see the position Mrs Morrissey is in.

“She (Mrs Morrissey) can’t talk to the media, but I can and I am going to ask the Taoiseach to get a resolution,” she said.

She claimed that Mrs Morrissey’s solicitor Cian O’Carrol told her that no offer has been made.

“How can you mediate when there is no offer,” she added.

“I want the Taoiseach to stand up and do something to protect these women.

“It is inhumane to watch.”

The Labour Party’s health spokesman Alan Kelly said Mr Varadkar should “come out of hiding” and that he needs to apologise if he made a “false commitment” to the women affected by the scandal.

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