Belfast Telegraph

Women and families affected by CervicalCheck hail apology as ‘watershed moment’

Lorraine Walsh from Co Galway said her misread smears meant she was deprived of the opportunity to have children.

Campaigners Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh (Niall Carson/PA)
Campaigners Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

Survivors and families of the women affected by the cervical check scandal have hailed the apology on behalf of the State as a “watershed moment”.

The Irish premier has apologised to the women and families who suffered from a “litany of failures” in the cervical screening scandal.

Addressing the Dail, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologised for the “humiliation, disrespect and deceit” caused to the women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy.

He spoke as members of the advocacy group 221+, set up for the women affected by the scandal, watched from the Dail gallery.

Speaking outside the Irish Parliament following the apology, the group described the State apology as a “watershed moment”.

“It is an acknowledgement from the core of out Government that our healthcare system was not patient centred,” they said.

The review into CervicalCheck last year identified at least 221 women diagnosed with cervical cancer who were not previously told about misreported smear tests, and could have been alerted to the early stages of cancer

The group said the apology is the “first step in rebuilding confidence in the capacity of the State to put the patient first in the delivery of public healthcare generally and for women’s health specifically”.

Campaigner Vicky Phelan described today’s apology as a “momentous day” for survivors and families affected by the controversy.

“This apology will help a lot of women and families to move on because there is still a lot of anger. The apology was more than we expected and we are very happy with it,” she said.

Ms Phelan criticised Irish parliamentarians who were absent from the Dail when the apology was being read out by Mr Varadkar.

She said: “I do think there were far fewer politicians in the chamber than we would have liked, to be honest. There could have been a few more there.

“Everybody has a wife or a mother or a daughter, so that was one thing I did notice: there was definitely a shortage.”

Campaigner Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died in 2017 and who was only told in April 2018 that her smear tests from 2010 and 2013 were incorrect, said he welcomed the apology because “in order to address failure, you have to acknowledge the mistakes of the past in order to move forward”.

“I do welcome the fact that the Taoiseach made reference to downplaying the debacle over the past 18 months as that has been frustrating for us,” he said.

“The words I’m sorry won’t change anything in my house, but all I can do is try and move forward and help to ensure this does not happen to anyone in the future.”

Lorraine Walsh from Co Galway said her misread smears meant she was deprived of the opportunity to have children.

She said the apology from the State “was in itself restorative and is deeply appreciated”.

“What must follow is that those in power to do so will work to establish governance structures, the oversight, the management capacity and the quality assurance checks to ensure these failures never happen again,” she said.

“Our hope now is for a time in Ireland when no woman will ever again have cause to doubt the availability or the quality of the healthcare they receive from the State.”

PA

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