The Government has denied being “cold and callous” by setting a cut-off point to compensate expenses incurred by victims affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.

In the Dáil earlier this week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was not possible to pay people retrospective expenses prior to May 11 last. But yesterday Tánaiste Simon Coveney said no arbitrary cut-off point has been applied.

He was responding to criticisms made by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty who said the imposition of a cut-off date means that no account is being taken of the costs incurred by those at the centre of the scandal. “They have been incurring costs for many, many years,” he said.

That means that victims and their families are forced down the legal route, potentially into the courts, in order to recoup expenses incurred, he said.

“Any fair-minded person will say that that is simply unacceptable. It represents shocking treatment by this State of people it has already failed. It is not right, and the cut-off point should be scrapped,” said Mr Doherty. He referenced Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer, who said the cut-off date is unacceptable to the 18 bereaved families still paying off expenses, as well as coming to terms with their battles with cancer.

The arbitrary cut-off date of May 11 is cold, clinical, callous, and unacceptable,” he added.

In response, Mr Coveney said the Government is seeking to deal with this matter in a compassionate way.

“There is nothing cold or callous about the Government’s approach to this. What we are looking to do is support families and individuals in a generous and supportive way. That is why we have put case officers in place to try to provide the supports that are needed in a very personal way, on the basis of individual cases,” he said.

There is no definitive cut-off date here. The scandal effectively broke on May 11. The Government response and services offered can be dated from then. Since then, each victim of this scandal has a dedicated liaison person who is talking to him or her,” he added.

He said the Government is now trying to establish the detail of the kind of costs incurred pre-May 11 so that it can respond appropriately.

“A political decision will have to be made as to how we respond to pre-May 11 costs incurred by families who are victims of the cervical checks scandal, and how that is appropriately addressed,” he said.

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