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Thalidomide survivors sue State as they reach 50

Thalidomide survivors have begun a legal battle against the State.

Survivors of the drug that caused foetal damage and lifelong disabilities said they need extra medical care having reached their 50th birthdays — a milestone they never expected to achieve.

The Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) says it has significant legal concerns relating to the original 1975 compensation arrangement reached with their parents when they were children.

It also accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Health Minister James Reilly of "weaseling out" of pre-election promises to meet their demands.

Thalidomide was prescribed to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s to minimise morning sickness.

However the drug, which was later withdrawn, caused children to be born with deformities, including no limbs, shortened limbs and the absence of organs.

In 1975, thalidomide children in Ireland received modest lump sums of between €5,000 and €20,000 and monthly payments of between €32 and €90.

The ITA has received legal advice on the fairness, appropriateness and adequacy of the payments as the offer was never approved by the High Court.

ITA chairperson Maggie Woods, who celebrated her 50th birthday last Friday, began litigation by lodging her application with the Injuries Board.

At a press conference in Dublin yesterday Ms Woods said the original 1975 settlement was made on the basis survivors would not survive into adulthood, never mind reaching 50.

"I am still here fighting for justice," she said.

ITA committee member Dr Austin O’Carroll said all discussions with the Government and the ITA had ceased. He said the ITA had 25 members and all of them will lodge individual applications with the Injuries Board this week.

The ITA last met with Dr Reilly a year ago when he offered a medical review of the needs of the 32 Irish survivors, but not on a statutory basis.

"There was no point in us entering an agreement similar to what had been put forward 35 years ago," said Ms Woods.

Dr O’Carroll said the original settlement never took account of their health deteriorating and was derisory.

Dr Reilly said he had taken legal advice and had been told the State did not have a legal liability for the injuries suffered by thalidomide survivors.

He said the department was ready to meet the ITA when they wished and he was prepared to consider a "financial gesture of goodwill".