Symphysiotomy issue gets first Dáil hearing

Survivors of symphysiotomy and their families were visiting the Dáil today, where the horrific practice was being debated for the first time.

Symphysiotomy was a procedure to break the pelvis during a difficult birth and was carried out on about 1,500 women in Ireland between 1944 and 1992.

The surgery left women with complications including walking difficulties, lifelong incontinence and pain.

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín O'Caoláin said the truth of the practice of symphysiotomy must come out.

“This is both a sad and an historic occasion – the first time that the Dáil has had statements on the use of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy, that barbaric practice which inflicted so much pain, distress and disability on so many Irish women," he said.

“We need a full and proper inquiry that is open and transparent and that gives the victims their proper place.

“We also urge the Government to introduce legislation amending the Statute of Limitations as was done in the case of sexual abuse victims," Deputy O'Caoláin added.

"This would allow the women to pursue legal action.

“We also need to see a comprehensive package of supports for the surviving victims of symphysiotomy, including health amendment cards for all.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams meanwhile echoed his party colleague's sentiments, describing the practice as “institutional abuse involving acts of butchery against women".

“Unless the victims are given satisfaction, the campaigning but more importantly the hurt, the anguish, the grief, the bereavement goes on," Deputy Adams said.

"Given the increasing age of the victims and the chronic pain and constant medical intervention they require as a result of symphysiotomy, it is urgent that (Health Minister Dr James Reilly) deal with this now.

“Our focus must be to ensure that this deep wrong is finally brought to a conclusion and in a way that is acceptable to the victims.”

Deputy Adams also referred to a number of other justice campaigns, which he said can be resolved in this term of the Dáil.

“These groups include Justice for the Maggies, for other victims of institutionalised abuse, including in Bethany Home, and in our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, and victims of symphysiotomy.

“All these causes are crying out for justice," Deputy Adams said.

“They have been failed by this state. That wrong can be righted. We as Teachtaí Dala, elected by our peers, have a duty to make this happen.”

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