Taoiseach dials back promises that no CervicalCheck victims will have to go to court

Update 3.45pm: Promises that no victim of the CervicalCheck scandal will have to go to court have been dialled back by the Taoiseach.

The government had promised the women affected they would not end up in a courtroom and cases would be settled.

Ruth and Paul Morrissey leave High Court on July 25.

However, Limerick woman Ruth Morrissey appeared before the High Court last week after mediation failed in her case.

Leo Varadkar said that was partly because negligence on behalf of the state has not yet been established.

He said: "An issue we've had since the very start is that all false negatives are not negligent, false negatives are part and parcel of screening and all of them are not negligent, indeed most are not negligent.

We still have a difficulty distinguishing between those that are false negatives which happen in screening regularly and those that were negligent and should not have happened.

- Digital Desk

Earlier: Taoiseach says he should have been clearer on CervicalCheck pledges

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has reacted to criticism about his response to the CervicalCheck controversy today by saying he should have been clearer in his pledge that no woman affected by the crisis would have to go to court.

He said he should have been "more clear" that it was not guaranteed that women would not have to face the court room, and that everyone had the right to go to court regardless of whether they were involved in mediation.

Vicky Phelan said today that the Taoiseach needs to “make good” on his promises to women affected by the scandal.

The pair are set to meet on Wednesday and Ms Phelan will discuss the issue of terminally ill women being dragged through the courts as a result of the CervicalCheck crisis, with specific mention of Ruth Morrissey.

Mr Varadkar said he was "sorry" that Ruth Morrissey had cancer, and that her illness wasn't picked up earlier.

The 37-year-old mother last week launched High Court action over the alleged misinterpretation of two cervical smears tests as part of the CervicalCheck screening programme.

“I'm very sorry that it wasn’t picked up earlier on screening and very sorry that she wasn’t informed of the audit when she should have been. I hope the treatment she is getting is successful and that it will extend her life so that she can see her daughter grow up, and I think that is the most important thing," he said.

Mr Varadkar also denied claims he was "hiding" and that he did not want to prejudice any legal action currently before the courts.

- Marita Moloney

Earlier: Calls for Taoiseach to honour pledges made to women impacted by CervicalCheck scandal

Two families at the centre of the centre of the CervicalCheck crisis have called on the Taoiseach to “make good” on his promises to women affected by the scandal.

Vicky Phelan. Photo: Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Terminally-ill Vicky Phelan, who brought the issue to the nation’s attention, Ms Phelan said the Taoiseach must honour on his commitment to the people of Ireland otherwise he should not be '’in the position he's in’'.

“He was the one who gave me the assurances and commitments that no other woman would have to court and give evidence,” she said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One programme on May 11, the Taoiseach said that mediation would be offered to women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy so that they could avoid the "trauma" of court.

He said that the State would settle and pursue the US Laboratories at the centre of the controversy at a later date, with the State "on the side of the plaintiff, mediating with her".

Ms Phelan and Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene passed away last year from cervical cancer, were speaking today on RTÉ’s Radio 1's Today programme ahead of Vicky’s meeting with the Taoiseach on Wednesday.

Ms Phelan will discuss the issue of terminally ill women being dragged through the courts as a result of the CervicalCheck crisis, with specific mention of Ruth Morrissey.

“I felt that I would keep the meeting with the Taoiseach for a time that I needed it and the time is now,” she said.

She said the biggest commitment that the Government has failed on is its promise that no woman would have to go through the courts.

She said Mr Varadkar needs to take back control from the labs which are currently being sued for damages and that there are another '’40 something cases’' due to come to court.

Ruth Morrissey. Photo: CourtPix

Ms Phelan said there was not a genuine offer of mediation being made in Ms Morrissey’s case and that she was “angry” that the case was being dealt with in court.

She said he own court case was very difficult, giving the intrusive questions of her personal life, as well as answering questions which “are directed to you in such a way that they’re talking about you in terms of you already dying”.

“It’s already difficult enough having a terminal diagnosis without having to talk about yourself in terms of dying.”

“I’m genuinely angry...because nobody in the HSE or from any of the labs have had to stand up and answer any questions about what they have done to us.”

Stephen Teap with Irene and their sons.

Mr Teap said the Government needs to prioritise patient health and safety, and questioned why Ruth, Vicky and Emma had to take on the US labs separately.

“The contract was between the labs and the HSE, not between the labs and the women of Ireland. There is absolutely no leadership in protecting women like Ruth who are very sick and have to be dragged up the High Court.”

“I’m looking to see if the Taoiseach can step out in front now and puts some sort of system in place that protects all the victim’s of this from having to take on each of the individual labs and this big corporate world of 17 lawyers one by one.

“It’s just inhumane to watch, it’s horrible.”

Labour Health spokesman Alan Kelly

Earlier today, Labour spokesman on Health Alan Kelly said the Government’s response was “disgraceful” and that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needs to “man up” in his response to the controversy.

Speaking on RTE Radio 1's Morning Ireland programme he said:“ I believe that what has happened is unforgivable, that the Taoiseach is in hiding, and indeed this Government is in hiding because what they have promised is not what has transpired.

“It's a disgrace. They said that they would ensure that all these cases would be mediated and they wouldn't end up in court.

“I think the Government have over-promised, they haven't delivered, and it's now at a point where Stephen Teap was on to me this morning and he said that last week he was reading about Ruth and Paul on the day of Irene's first anniversary and he decided that he had enough. He said to me that the Taoiseach needs to step up now or get out.

“That's how strongly the people who are affected here feel. It's unforgivable what has happened and I believe that the Taoiseach, if this continues, he'll have misled these people, he'll have misled these women, their families and the public as regards what the Government said they would do."

“The Taoiseach needs to come out and explain how he is going to guarantee that this doesn't happen and is not going to continue to happen. The are numerous other cases, we can't have a situation where these women are being put through the ordeal that Ruth, Emma and Vicky have gone through.

“It is unacceptable, it is a disgrace on top of a national disgrace.

“The Taoiseach needs to man up and explain how he is going to deal with these cases, how Ruth ended up in court in the first place."

The programme said that the Taoiseach and Minister for Health did not want to comment on what is an ongoing legal case.

However, in a statement issued last night, the Government said: "The Government has made it very clear that we do not want to see any woman having to go to court. Mediation is now being offered in every case.

“While mediation may not always succeed at first, it must be an option and the Government wants to see all cases dealt with through mediation so that a settlement can be sought in a sensitive way and the Government accepts that everyone still has a right to go to court."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health Simon Harris. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “The State participates in a sensitive and compassionate matter as has happened in two previous cases.

“In relation to the current case, I am aware that the State has accepted liability for non-disclosure of clinical audit findings.

“However, there are two labs also involved as defendants. Where differences exist between parties the mediation process is designed to address these.

“I believe there is a responsibility to use this process in a compassionate and sensitive manner. I welcome the fact that the State Claims Agency has requested the labs to recommence mediation.

“I am sorry that Ruth and her family have had this distressing experience when they are already going through so much. We learn from this difficulty and how to deal with it if it arises in the future."


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