Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar urged to apologise for ’empty promises’ in CervicalCheck scandal

Fianna Fail health spokesman Stephen Donnelly criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris.

A Fianna Fail TD has called for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris to apologise for “false and empty promises” they made to women at the centre of the CervicalCheck scandal.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said Mr Varadkar and Mr Harris should make good on a promise that no woman affected by the controversy would have to go to court.

“On April 14, Minister Harris during a press conference promised that no woman affected by the scandal would have to go to court,” Mr Donnelly said.

“The Taoiseach also made this promise while being interviewed on the Six One news and also during a debate on the matter in the Dail.”

I’m calling on the Taoiseach and the Minister to keep their promise and ensure that no more women have to go to the courts. Stephen Donnelly

Emma Mhic Mhathuna, who has terminal cancer, and her five children sued over the CervicalCheck smears and settled the legal action for 7.5 million euros.

The Kerry woman launched the legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Quest Diagnostics, the US company that misread her smear test results.

Earlier this week, Ruth Morrissey, who is also terminally ill, appeared in court as she is suing over the incorrect reporting of two smear tests carried out in 2014.

Mr Donnelly added: “Since these promises were made, Emma Mhic Mhathuna has been forced to go to court at least four times. This week saw Ruth Morrissey in court.

“During her appearance, Ms Morrissey said that she didn’t think she’d have to give evidence in a court.

“In light of the clear promise made by the Taoiseach and Minister for Health, why would she believe any different? Instead, she had to sit in court, listening to legal arguments challenging her diagnosis.”

It emerged in April that an audit by the Cervical Check 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.

“I’m calling on the Taoiseach and the Minister to keep their promise and ensure that no more women have to go to the courts or admit that their promises were empty gimmicks in the pursuit of damage limitation on behalf of the Government,” he added.

He went on to say that the women affected by the scandal were “tricked into a false sense of security” and that their anguish and worry is being further “compounded” by being forced to go to court.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “The Minister for Health has been very clear he does not want to see any woman having to go to court.

“Mediation is now offered in every case, as it was in this one.

“While mediation may not always succeed at first, it remains an option and the Minister has made his wishes in relation to this very clearly known.

“The Minister is aware that the State Claims Agency (SCA) has today (Friday) written to the two laboratories requesting that they join the SCA in resuming mediation talks as soon as is possible with Ms Morrissey’s legal team.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Government has been very clear that we do not want to see any woman having to go to court.

“Mediation is now offered in every case.

“While mediation may not always succeed at first it must remain an option and the Government wants to see all cases dealt with through mediation so that a settlement can be sought in a sensitive way.

“The Government accepts that everyone still has a right to go to court.”

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