Taoiseach to 'further engage' on CervicalCheck tribunal after campaigners quit talks

Micheál Martin said the Government want to do 'whatever we can to give an alternative to the court system' but would not commit to meet 221+ group
Taoiseach to 'further engage' on CervicalCheck tribunal after campaigners quit talks

Campaigners said they were forced to leave protracted talks with the health minister on the CervicalCheck tribunal as it was a 'pointless waste of time'. Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The Taoiseach has promised to "further engage" on the CervicalCheck tribunal after campaigners walked away from talks claiming they had not been listened to.

Micheál Martin has said the Government want to do "whatever we can to give an alternative to the court system" to the women and their families who were impacted by the smear-testing scandal.

However, Mr Martin would not commit to meet the 221+ group when directly asked and instead said the Government will be meeting on Tuesday when the matter will be discussed.

Representatives including Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh say they were forced to leave protracted talks with the Health Minister on the CervicalCheck tribunal claiming it was a "pointless waste of time" and they were not listened to.

Vicky Phelan has said that she and the rest of the patient advocacy group see "no point" in continuing talks with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Brian Lawless

Vicky Phelan has said that she and the rest of the patient advocacy group see "no point" in continuing talks with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Brian Lawless

The group had asked that the tribunal be non-adversarial, and had also raised concerns around the statue of limitations and believed women should be allowed return if their cancer comes back or their health significantly deteriorates.

"We didn’t just point out the problems, we also proposed solutions. We acknowledge that some of those solutions were not possible at the stroke of a pen but they are entirely possible if those in Government had the will to act with the interests and needs of this group of victims at heart. They clearly don’t," the group said after announcing that they were leaving discussions.

Mr Martin told the Irish Examiner that a lot of work had been put into setting up the tribunal, which had been paused as campaigners and the Department of Health tried to iron out difficulties.

"Government will reflect on this, we have received correspondence, we have seen the statement and the Government will reflect on this and engage again," Mr Martin said.

"I am conscious that negotiations have been underway, we will continue to engage, our aim and objective is to ensure there's an alternative to the courts system that would be beneficial to the women involved because we want to do what is right and proper and appropriate.

"A lot of work went into establishing the tribunal, the legislation was passed in the last Dáil. We will engage further and see if we can and make progress on this," he said.

However, Ms Phelan has said that she and the rest of the patient advocacy group see "no point" in continuing talks with Stephen Donnelly.

"The minister made it quite clear that our requests for an extension of the statute of limitations and to allow recurrence, which is another big piece, that they are not going to meet us on those demands."

Ms Phelan believes the tribunal in its current format does not provide an alternative to the High Court.

"At the moment there is no difference between a woman taking a case, there is no advantage to taking a case over the High Court, the only advantage for women talking a case at the Tribunal is that it may be quicker," she told Gavan Reilly's On the Record show.

While the group will support and inform members who do go down the tribunal route, Ms Phelan said 221+ believes the "landscape has fundamentally changed" as a result of the Ruth Morrissey case.

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