Latest: Memos 'not brought to the attention of any Minister for Health', Department says

Update - 9pm: The Department of Health has said that documents relating to the CervicalCheck audit "were not brought to the attention of any Minister for Health".

In a statement, it said the HSE shared a number of documents in relation to the CervicalCheck clinical audit with the Department, including the memos made available to the PAC today.

"However, nothing so far has been identified that changes our basic assertion that the fact of clinical audit being undertaken and arrangements being made to disclose to patients in this regard were positive features of CervicalCheck," it said.

The Department said the documents were not shared outside the CMO and Acute Hospitals Divisions.

It said it is currently examining the records in relation to CervicalCheck and that "a full discovery will be undertaken and all documents will be made available to the Scoping Inquiry to inform its considerations".

The Department said that documents relating to the CervicalCheck audit were not brought to the attention of any Minister for Health. Pictured: Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Update - 8pm: Fianna Fáil confirms support of no confidence motion in O'Brien

Fianna Fáil has confirmed it will support a motion of no confidence in the director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, writes Daniel McConnell.

The motion was tabled by Sinn Féin and will be taken next Tuesday.

On Twitter, Fianna Fáil’s health spokesman Stephen Donnelly this evening said: “We’ve recently had sight of next week’s motion, calling on Minister Harris to remove the HSE Director General. Fianna Fáil will support this motion, and reiterate that we call on the DG to step down immediately.”

It comes as the Government has postponed a planned Cabinet meeting in Monaghan tomorrow to deal with the crisis.

Update - 7.10pm: Zappone calls for O'Brien's resignation after 'game-changer' CervicalCheck memo released

Minister Katherine Zappone has described a memo on the CervicalCheck scandal sent to HSE head Tony O'Brien in 2016 as a "game changer" and has called for her fellow ministers to call for his resignation, writes Elaine Loughlin.

A memo released today shows that HSE management were informed in July 2016 that CervicalCheck was preparing a media response to potential adverse headlines to the effect that "screening did not diagnose my cancer".

The memo also said that letters to inform women would be "paused".

Responding, this evening, Ms Zappone said: "I think it is a game-changer; adding “I hope it moves my colleagues to make a different decision”.

Ms Zappone said she had called for Mr O'Brien's resignation at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday before the release of the memo.

"In the context of a Cabinet meeting I expressed the view that I felt that it would be important for him to resign his position or for the Government to ask him to stand aside, that I felt that would be a signal for accountability and we need that.

"That's the view I have."

Update - 5pm: Memo to HSE director warned of media headlines that ‘screening did not diagnose my cancer’ after audit

An internal memo to HSE director general Tony O'Brien warned that an audit of cervical cancer screening cases could result in headlines such as "screening did not diagnose my cancer".

The memo was prepared for HSE management in July 2016 but released to the Public Accounts Committee today.

It said that negative media coverage could ensue after the CervicalCheck audit but that they were prepared for such coverage as "communications materials" had been created to "ensure transparent, effective and robust communications processes are in place so as to provide clear information for the media and the public".

CervicalCheck first initated an audit in 2010.

The memo says that cervical screening is not 100% accurate: screening cannot give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and a negative screening result does not mean that the disease will not develop in future.

It ended by outlining the next steps to be taken, those being:

• Pause all letters

• Await advice of solicitors

• Decide on the order and volume of dispatch to mitigate any potential risks

• Continue to prepare reactive communications response for a media headline that ‘screening did not diagnose my cancer’.

Update - 1.51pm: Under-fire HSE director general Tony O'Brien was told of the CervicalCheck tests audit in an internal memo two years ago, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith of the Irish Examiner.

However, he has insisted the message did not "ring alarm bells" because he was told women would be informed of what happened.

Mr O'Brien confirmed he was informed in March or April 2016 that Cervical Check had conducted a clinical audit of women who took the tests and about plans to tell the women of what happened at a Dáil meeting on Thursday morning.

Speaking at the latest meeting of the cross-party public accounts committee, Mr O Brien told Labour TD Alan Kelly that in March or April 2016 he received a memo from officials about the audit.

He said it raised no "alarm bells" because the memo also outlined a communications strategy to inform the women of what happened - which was subsequently not followed.

He added that to his recollection did not mention the number of women who may be involved, and that he will supply the PAC with the memo this afternoon.

During the same meeting the Department of Health's secretary general Jim Breslin told Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane the Department was also informed of some of the details of the memo in early 2016.

He said he did not know how much detail the Department was given, but that he would provide this to the PAC in the coming days.

Meanwhile, during the same meeting HSE officials again claimed they do not know how many of the women affected by the cervical cancer scandal have since developed terminal cancer.

Speaking after Kerry woman Emma Mhic Mhathúna told RTE Radio's Morning Ireland programme she will learn on Friday how long she has to live, HSE officials told Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O Brien they do not know how many other women are facing the same situation - two weeks after the scandal became public.

1.06pm: 'There are no wagons being circled' around Tony O'Brien, says Paschal O'DonohoeThere has been no circling of the wagons around Tony O'Brien, but he should continue as head of the HSE, according to the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Mr O'Brien faced further calls to resign this morning at an Oireachtas Committee.

Mr Donohoe said: "Our only agenda is to do the right thing, established what has happened.

There are no wagons being circled, there are no circles being created.

The Finance Minister later said Mr O'Brien should continue his work.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry called for his resignation, but Mr O'Brien said he could not take responsibility for what happened at CervicalCheck as he didn't know about it.

He also accused Marc MacSharry of scaremongering, saying: "Why don't we both wait until the outcome of the expert review, and then you can reflect and I can reflect.

"At the moment, you are causing hysteria."

That is something Fianna Fáil Deputy leader Dara Calleary told the Dáil was rich.

Mr Calleary said: "If he (Tony O'Brien) won't take accountability for his own role in this, Minister, we don't need words, we don't need promises, we don't need shouting or roaring in this chamber, we need action."

The issue will re-emerge in the Oireachtas next week with Sinn Féin's motion of no confidence in Tony O'Brien.

11.04am: Fianna Fáil TD tells Tony O'Brien 'there is zero accountability' in CervicalCheck scandal

The head of the HSE Tony O'Brien has accused a TD of trying to cause hysteria over the CervicalCheck scandal.

Mr O'Brien is appearing before an Oireachtas committee where he has been accused of dancing on the head of a pin to avoid resigning.

Watch live here:

He says he did not know about women not being told of the audits of their smear tests, and there is no way smear testing can be infallible.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry attacked Mr O'Brien's stance saying this was one of the worst scandals in the history of the State.

Mr MacSharry said: "What you're implying is, we enter the system we set it up, it did a lot of good work and there were some casualties.

"That's the implications of what you are saying."

Mr O'Brien replied to the deputy saying: "You need to step back."

However, Mr MacSharry said: "In fairness Mr O'Brien, none of this is personal Mr O'Brien, but we do have to hold people to account and there is zero accountability, it seems to me."

"How is your position tenable?"

Mr O'Brien said question was based on a presumption that an action had been taken that led to the diagnosis, and claimed that it is far from established.

He said that, while it is clearly "always very tragic" when any young person is terminally diagnosed with cancer, the reason for a screening programme is to limit the number of such cases, but it cannot eliminate them.

Mr O'Brien said: "Your question is based on a fundamental premise that this has arisen because of the cervical screening programme, and I don't accept that is a reality.

"There is a review process… I think it is wrong to jump to conclusions in advance of that process."


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