Taoiseach apologises for 'litany of failures in cervical screening'

Taoiseach apologises for 'litany of failures in cervical screening'
Picture: Collins Courts

The Taoiseach has been forced to apologise for the treatment of women during the CervicalCheck scandal.

Micheál Martin opened Tuesday's leader's questions paying tribute to CervicalCheck campaigner Ruth Morrissey, who died over the weekend.

"Ruth was a young, brave, courageous woman who worked tirelessly for others and future generations of women," he said.

"Ruth and other women worked together to highlight failings in CervicalCheck screening program so others did not have to go through what they went through. 

"I would like to sincerely apologise for the litany of failures in cervical screening, we are profoundly sorry."

Ms Morrissey was one of a number of women who were diagnosed with cervical cancer after smear tests were misread.

She took a test case against the HSE and two laboratories and won in the High Court in 2019. 

She was successful again when the verdict was appealed to the Supreme Court and was subsequently awarded €2.1 million in damages.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said that "the state grievously failed Ruth Morrissey" and that the long-awaited tribunal for women affected by the scandal will run in the same mechanism as personal injury claims.

Ruth was hauled before the Supreme Court to suffer one final indignity before she was vindicated. Her solicitor described it as 'deathbed litigation', despite Leo Varadkar saying this would never happen. 

"This is still happening and is entirely wrong.

"The state shouldn't be joining with American labs to fight these women. Will you intervene to ensure the state accepts liability and stops dragging sick women through the courts?"

Micheál Martin said a tribunal, which is to be established to provide an alternative mechanism for processing claims, will be "less adversarial" that the court system.

"A tribunal is much less adversarial and far more effective than the court process," he said.

"Every step has to be taken to remove obstacles from the entitlements of women in these situations."

Despite Micheál Martin's party not being in power at the time that the scandal was uncovered, he was called to account for the statement released by his Tánaiste over the weekend.

When a statement issued on behalf of Ruth's husband Paul said that neither the HSE nor the State ever apologised to his wife, Leo Varadkar replied, stating: "As Taoiseach, he gave a formal State apology to all women and their families affected by the CervicalCheck crisis in October of 2016."

A move that has been described as "crass" by Labour leader Alan Kelly.  

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