Leo Varadkar defends extra time for inquiry into cervical cancer scandal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the granting of a time extension to the Scally scoping exercise into the cervical cancer scandal.

At leaders’ questions in the Dáil, he said a suggestion by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that the Scally report be rolled into a commission of inquiry now “is worthy of proper consideration”.

Mr Martin said the public has been shocked at the CervicalCheck scandal and the treatment of women, in terms of non-disclosure in particular, which has resulted in women being forced through the courts.

He said the drip-drip release of information from the Department of Health, HSE, and CervicalCheck via the public accounts and health committees compounded that sense of shock and anger.

“Promises were made, perhaps in haste, in terms of a redress scheme that has not fully been realised, support packages, and mediation which would avoid the necessity of people going to court,” said Mr Martin.

The progress report produced by Dr Gabriel Scally will add to that anger and frustration, he said. “Will the Taoiseach consider cutting to the chase and roll the Scally inquiry into a commission of investigation?”

Mr Varadkar said this is obviously a difficult and emotive issue that has caused concern across the country, not just among people who have been affected and their families, but among women in general and women who avail of cervical screening in particular.

He said the Government has taken a lot of actions in a very swift manner. Mr Varadkar said Dr Scally was appointed by the Government to do this work, and the terms of reference were agreed by this Oireachtas.

“Should it be the case that anyone obstructs the work of Dr Scally, they are also obstructing the Government,” he said.

“I want to make it very clear to any agency or public body, if it is not already, that we expect full co-operation with Dr Scally and his team and will accept nothing less than that.”

Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is set to question three senior HSE officials again today after the State Claims Agency disputed their version of events last month.

Acting director general John Connaghan, national director of health and wellbeing Dr Susan O’Keeffe, and CervicalCheck programme manager John Gleeson will face questions in a two-hour meeting.

Mr Gleeson told the PAC, on May 17, that CervicalCheck did not tell the State Claims Agency all affected women had been informed of what had happened.

In a statement sent to the PAC the following week, State Claims Agency director Ciaran Breen said this was not true.

He stated: “We have noted that John Gleeson of HSE CervicalCheck, during his evidence to the PAC on Thursday, May 17, indicated nobody in HSE CervicalCheck informed the SCA in or about the time of Vicky Phelan’s trial that all of the women, the subject matter of the audit, had been informed. Mr Gleeson’s assertion does not accord with the facts.”


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