Government to establish independent CervicalCheck tribunal

Government to establish independent CervicalCheck tribunal
Ms Justice Mary Irvine

The Government has agreed to establish an independent statutory tribunal to deal with claims arising from CervicalCheck.

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD secured Government approval to prepare legislative proposals as a matter of priority, but the Government acknowledged this will take time to establish.

The Cabinet approved the appointment of Ms Justice Mary Irvine as chair of the tribunal.

The Minister will also examine the early establishment of a non-statutory scheme to provide ex-gratia payments for the women affected by the non-disclosure of the audit.

The tribunal will be established based on the recommendations set out by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in his recent report on an alternative system for dealing with cases arising from CervicalCheck.

Hearings will be held in private and will be less adversarial than the current court process due to the adoption of pre-hearing protocols and case management procedures.

Once established, cases will be dealt with in a timely manner, the Government says.

The tribunal will differ from the current court process in that it will be voluntary for all parties.

Minister Harris emphasised that establishing a tribunal does not, in any way, restrict the right of women or their families to give evidence in public in the High Court, if that is their wish.

Minister Harris said: "The tribunal will allow women to progress their cases in a timely and sensitive, less adversarial manner, while equally respecting the constitutional entitlement of all parties to a fair hearing.

I want to thank Ms Justice Irvine for taking on this role. I look forward to engaging with her in the new year and progressing with this work as soon as possible.

"This will take time to establish but all arms of Government are working to progress as a matter of urgency.

"I will also consider the establishment of an ex-gratia compensatory scheme to deal with any accepted non-disclosure to the 221 women and their families and I hope to progress this in the new year."

Labour's Alan Kelly TD said that legislation around the CervicalCheck tribunal needs to be enacted as soon as possible in the new year.

"Minister Harris needs to ensure that the legislation that is needed for the smooth running of this tribunal is brought in when the Dáil resumes in early January," he said.

"While the ex-gratia compensation scheme is welcome, I don’t believe it does enough to take into account for the impact and hurt caused by the CervicalCheck scandal.

"This is a far cry from when the Taoiseach promised live on the Six One News that no woman would have to court and the Taoiseach knows deep down he should have never made a commitment like that that he couldn’t keep.

"Most importantly, we need to look at the long term health needs and requirements of these women. We need to learn the lessons of the Hep C scandal and ensure a proper plan is in place for victims of the CervicalCheck scandal and their future healthcare."

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