Vicky Phelan and Irene Teap widower to meet PAC over cancer test scandal

Cervical cancer victim Vicky Phelan and the widower of Irene Teap, who lost her life due to the same scandal, will attend a special Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting today to highlight what questions they still have over the crisis.

The meeting will take place this afternoon despite a formal complaint by health committee chair Dr Michael Harty over alleged encroachment on his area by the PAC which led to a private meeting to resolve the matter last night.

In a private meeting yesterday morning, members of the cross-party PAC said that they wanted to meet with Ms Phelan and Stephen Teap this afternoon to hear first-hand their ongoing concerns over the scandal.

The invitations, which are understood to have been unanimously backed by all PAC members, are due in part because the PAC plans to grill senior HSE and Department of Health officials over what they knew about the crisis tomorrow morning.

In a statement confirming the meeting with Ms Phelan and Mr Teap yesterday afternoon, PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said he had “sought and received the support of my colleagues to hear directly from Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap”.

Mr Fleming said it is “important the Dáil hears directly from those affected in this scandal”, and that the meeting will play a key role in helping to frame the PAC’s questions to senior Department of Health and HSE officials tomorrow morning.

However, despite the decision, the Dáil’s cross-party Health Committee was heavily critical of the move, with its chair and Independent TD Dr Michael Harty yesterday insisting that the PAC meeting should not go ahead.

In a letter to the Oireachtas committee on procedure — in effect the referee on Oireachtas disputes — Dr Harty said it was inappropriate for the PAC to meet with Ms Phelan and Mr Teap as such a move would interfere with the Health Committee’s own investigations.

To my knowledge, the Comptroller and Auditor General has not published a report in relation to the Cervical Check programme, nor has his office examined the serious issues which have come into the public domain in the last fortnight,” wrote Dr Harty.

“I believe that this matter is therefore not within the remit of the public accounts committee. For this reason and because the health committee is actively examining these matters, I suggest it is not appropriate for the PAC to proceed.”

The committee stand-off over which group should be allowed to examine the cervical cancer scandal is understood to have been the subject of considerable debate at a private meeting of the committee on procedure yesterday afternoon.

However, while committee members privately said they understood Dr Harty’s position and were frustrated at the PAC’s apparent extending of its limitations, they said due to the last-minute nature of this evening’s PAC meeting they will allow it to go ahead.

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