Tribunal open to those in CervicalCheck scandal

Terms for a tribunal to hear and determine claims from women and families caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal have been agreed by government.

The inquiry will be chaired by Ms Justice Mary Irvine and will be open to women and families from the the 221 group of patients involved in the CervicalCheck audit.

Legislation was agreed at Cabinet yesterday for the tribunal, which is being set up as an alternative to the courts for dealing with cases arising from the controversy. Smear tests for women were subject to a clinical audit following their cancer diagnosis but many women, including campaigner Vicky Phelan, were not informed of reviews or changed outcomes.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the tribunal would be open to individuals who are part of the 221 group of women involved in the CervicalCheck audit. Furthermore, individuals involved in a separate review of smear slides from 1,600 cancer cases can also apply if contrary test results are discovered.

The Department of Health said the tribunal would be open to those individuals who are identified during the “independent expert panel review currently undertaken by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK, where this review presents findings discordant with those of the original cytology examination”.

The department also said that the legislation for the tribunal would be published on its website after consultation with the Attorney General. This is expected to take several days.

Work is also advanced, the department said, on an ex-gratia scheme for women affected by the non-disclosure of the CervicalCheck audit and this will be open for applications shortly. This is for the 221 women and their families and amounts will be decided by an independent assessment panel.

Meanwhile, Government yesterday also agreed to new parental leave measures which were announced in last October’s budget.

Cabinet also agreed yesterday to begin the nomination process to appoint new presidents to the circuit and district courts. The system, to mirror the new judicial appointments rules slowly going through the Oireachtas, will see a senior judge, the attorney general, a lay member, and others on an advisory panel pick suitable members of the judiciary and propose names to the government.

The Government said a similar process would be used as was used for the appointments of the chief justice in 2017 and the president of the court of appeal in 2018.

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