Health minister's 'story' on repeat smear tests has shifted, Opposition claim

The government is facing further questions over how Health Minister Simon Harris' story has “shifted” around advice he received over offering women free repeat smear tests.

Health minister's 'story' on repeat smear tests has shifted, Opposition claim

The government is facing further questions over how Health Minister Simon Harris' story has “shifted” around advice he received over offering women free repeat smear tests.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told the Dáil the “truth matters and the record of the house matters”, as he insisted alarm bells were raised before and when the offer was made by Mr Harris.

He said that the minister's story has “shifted” since January and the Opposition have been seeking answers for three months.

On February 15, the minister had denied receiving official advice, Mr Martin said, but it had since emerged the former clinical director of CervicalCheck Dr Grainne Flannery had made her concerns known.

There had also been meetings between the department of health officials on the day of the announcement and an email had gone from CervicalCheck to the department, Mr Martin noted.

The Cork TD pointed out the former HSE boss Tony O'Brien had disclosed over the weekend that after the public offer had been made in April last year, he had also asked the minister to "walk back" from the offer.

A number of the statements from the minister on the issue were “incorrect”, insisted Mr Martin.

The Opposition concern comes as 80,000 women are now waiting on average of 27 weeks for tests.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended Mr Harris, saying the advice and concern were made after the offer of free tests for women.

The most important thing was to "clear the backlog" and the HSE had also now secured extra capacity for testing from laboratories, Mr Varadkar said.

“In my view, he has answered questions already,” he added.

Minister Harris, meanwhile, is set to appear before the Oireachtas Health Committee tomorrow to answer further questions on the cervical check scandal.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence