221+ deeply disappointed and frustrated at Donnelly response re CervicalCheck Tribunal
“We seek further engagement for change on Tribunal as previously requested or will
recommend members not engage”
– last minute letter fails to address issues raised in September meeting
– proposed process and timings of Tribunal raise barriers rather than offer relief
Seven weeks ago exactly we met Minister Stephen Donnelly for the first time to address a number of
specific issues outstanding in the State’s response to the past failures of CervicalCheck which remain
unresolved some two and half years after the Vicky Phelan case which exposed them to the public.
We left that discussion encouraged that these issues would be progressed and that there would be
further consultation in that respect.
We were thus shocked to receive a letter yesterday morning confirming the imminent establishment
of the Tribunal in seven days time without any further review of the issues raised. On closer inspection
this response is deeply inadequate and goes further than any previous missteps by the State in seeking
to disavow the rightful claims of those at a loss due to those failures.
It is light years away from the hope that we had exactly one year ago this week when the then
Taoiseach delivered a State apology to these women in the Dáil. That all now seems pointless.
We are at a loss to understand how the Minister would not take the opportunity to work with us to
make the Tribunal something that our members might be encouraged to engage with. Instead if
changes cannot be made, we will be recommending that 221+ members should not participate in this
Tribunal should it go ahead in its current format next week.
We have written to the Minister in response today (copy attached) to set out in detail a number of
points of continuing serious concern:
– In September, we asked that a non-adversarial route be found for the Tribunal. This has been
rejected. The letter in effect sets out the Minister’s view that to hold the labs to account, their
negligence needs first to be proven in each case by an individual women who had no
relationship with those labs and knew nothing of their role or existence when she accepted the
state’s invitation to avail of a screening test. This is not acceptable to our members nor would it
be to any right thinking citizen. The Minister might also note that the High Court thought
otherwise in its recent decisions on the Carrick case.
– In our meeting we had asked that the Minister address the genuine concern that some members,
through no fault of their own, would be statute barred from some or all aspects of the Tribunal by
the prior delay in its establishment. This has been ignored completely.
– We also asked that applicants to the Tribunal who receive an award of redress be allowed to
return to the Tribunal in future should they suffer a recurrence of their cancer in the same way as
the State has allowed applicants before the Hep-C Tribunal to return where their health
deteriorates. We were assured that this would be explored with legal input but we have heard
nothing and it is not even referred in this letter.
Closing the door on the failures of Cervical Check is not just about dealing with a specific group of
women and events past. It is equally about establishing a basis of confidence in cervical screening in
the present and into the future. We would hope the Minister would share a willingness to work
together to set that context and remain available to engage with him and his office to that end.