Victims of CervicalCheck scandal kept in the dark — again

If avoiding a commission of investigation was the motivation behind leaking part of the Scally Inquiry, it is now likely to achieve the exact opposite.

Health Minister Simon Harris has made a conscious effort to keep the victims involved in the process.

Being kept in the dark was at the very heart of the CervicalCheck scandal and now those directly impacted feel they are yet again the last to be informed.

It took the bravery of Vicky Phelan and her decision to waive anonymity before the full extent of the controversy and the numbers of women caught up in it became known.

Since then Health Minister Simon Harris has made a conscious effort to keep the victims involved in the process.

And so waking up to details of the unpublished report came as yet another cruel blow to Ms Phelan, Stephen Teap, and the other 219 women and their families.

It was reported that Dr Gabriel Scally, having carried out a four-month scoping exercise into the controversy, concluded that a promised commission of inquiry was not required.

While the Government claimed it had worked very hard to ensure those affected would be briefed today before the public got wind of the report, that plan lay in tatters as Mr Harris made an unexpected appearance on early morning radio to express his disgust at the leak.

Taking to Twitter, an understandably enraged Ms Phelan described the leak as a “whitewash”, adding: “Information continues to be withheld from women and I will continue to fight back.”

Leaks are, of course, the bread and butter of journalists and it is often a two-way street for the reporter who manages to get a scoop and the source providing the information.

While previous investigations into the source of the many leaks that Leinster House seems to constantly spring have been fruitless, in this case the net would not have to be cast very wide.

Just a small and very select number of high-ranking people in the Department of Health along with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Harris were given copies of the report.

The Attorney General’s office also received a copy, but the circle did not extend to anyone in the HSE.

Of course, tittle-tattle and talk can be rife in Government Buildings and so the leaker could have been someone who was simply told a snippet of what is actually contained in the document.

This theory — that senior civil servants, ministers, or even the Taoiseach would be gossiping in the shadowy corners of the department about the contents of an unpublished report while those women it referred to were kept in the dark — is even more galling.

Others suggested that the actual recommendations of the 200-page document would be so damning that the insider thought it best to throw a bone to the hungry media so they wouldn’t sniff out the real meat. Or perhaps an official was so relieved by the fact that Dr Scally thought a commission of investigation is no longer needed that they couldn’t help but spill the beans.

Whatever the reason, it does prove that no one can be trusted in politics, not even when it comes to respecting the women, some of whom are now terminally ill, at the centre of this scandal.


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