CervicalCheck: 'If there is a requirement to hold individuals to account we will do so', interim head of HSE tells PAC

Update - 11.47am: The interim director general of the HSE has said he has heard calls from Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap for up to 35 officials to be sacked for the cervical cancer tests scandal and will hold anyone responsible for what happened to account.

Speaking at the start of this morning's cross-party Dáil public accounts committee meeting, John Connaghan said he wants to "reassure them I am listening".

He added he will act if clear evidence emerges people are directly at fault for what happened, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

You can view the proceedings here.

At a specially arranged PAC meeting on Wednesday evening Limerick mother Ms Phelan, who has terminal cancer, and Cork father and widower Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene died last year, said they want accountability and not revenge over what happened.

Noting the fact 35 separate HSE and Department of Health officials were aware of the 2016 cervical cancer tests memos, both victims of the scandal said they want these individuals removed immediately.

Addressing the comments directly at this morning's PAC meeting, Mr Connaghan said he has heard the calls from Ms Phelan and Mr Teap.

While not saying he is willing to remove anyone yet, he said if clear evidence is shown people are directly responsible for what happened he will act immediately.

"I want to reassure Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap that I am listening and I am listening intently. Vicky commented yesterday she wishes to see change, and I want to say we will take on any of the lessons.

"I'm aware of the testimony yesterday. If there is a requirement to hold individuals to account we will do so. We will then learn lessons from recent weeks, not least the ability to say sorry," Mr Connaghan said.

PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming had earlier noted this morning's meeting is the seventh public Oireachtas meeting on the cervical cancer tests scandal since May 2.

Pointing to previous PAC, health committee and finance committee meetings, Mr Fleming said a total of 32 witnesses have already attended, underlining the genuine public concern over the matter.

The 32 witnesses include seven from the Department of Health, 15 from the HSE, four from the State Claims Agency, two from the Medical Council, one from the National Cancer Registry, Ms Phelan, Mr Teap and Ms Phelan's solicitor Cian O'Carroll.

The PAC meeting, which is expected to last for a number of hours, was also halted for an hour moments after it began after Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, Labour TD Alan Kelly and Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy revealed the HSE had provided last minute written answers to questions logged on Monday.

"It's a management strategy, you hardly have time to read it [the 25 pages of answers], never mind give serious consideration to questions," Ms Murphy said.

9.43am: 'Frankly disgraceful' - PAC criticises HSE after members only receive documents shortly before CervicalCheck meeting

The Public Accounts Committee has criticised the HSE for delivering critical documents just minutes before their meeting with witnesses in relation to the CervicalCheck scandal.

Members received five pages of memos this morning in relation to who knew what and when.

They say no lessons have been learned in relation to public accountability.

Senior staff from the Department of Health, the HSE and the National Cancer Registry are due to appear before the PAC this morning.

The group has adjourned until 10.30am to read the memos, but Labour's Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly says it is disgraceful to be sent the information so late.

He said: "Again to what we are looking at in relation to the HSE and the department, to send us this information as late as they did is frankly disgraceful given the topic we are dealing with.

"We haven't had time to look at these, we are going to have to go through our correspondence on the matters and then suspend for a significant period of time.

"This is a big jigsaw and we are getting pieces all of the time, we need to add them in and have time to prepare."

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy suggested delays in receiving documents mean "you hardly have time to read it, never mind give some serious consideration to the questions you might form to pose to the people who are going to be here today."


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