The closing date for submitting a claim to the Cervical Check Tribunal has been extended, for the second time, until July.
It comes as new figures show that just 17 women to date have chosen to pursue their claim through the tribunal, while 336 others are pursuing the Government through the High Court.
Since 2018, 336 claims have been received regarding the alleged misreading of smear tests. A further 4 claims were received prior to 2018.
The number of claims has risen steadily year on year, with 103 new claims made in 2021.
On Friday, the Department of Health confirmed in an update to Peadar Tóibín, Aontú leader, the deadline to submit a claim to the tribunal has been extended until July 26.
As of January 25, it had received 17 claims, with a “significant portion” of these now resolved.
“The Tribunal only received its first claims in March 2021 and the early resolution of the claims received demonstrates that the Tribunal can bring claims to resolution in months, rather than the years that many claims have been pending before the Courts.
“The Tribunal has been set up to progress an increased number of claims within these same strict timeframes.
“It is still open to eligible women with claims pending before the Courts to transfer to the Tribunal and see their claims resolved more quickly. We understand that the Tribunal has continued to receive inquiries and claims in recent days.”
Campaigners walked away from protracted talks with the Health Minister on the CervicalCheck tribunal in November 2020, claiming it has been a "pointless waste of time" as they have not been listened to.
Campaigners, including Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh had all expressed concerns around a number of elements of the tribunal and had called for it to be non-adversarial.
Extending the deadline seems “like a last-ditch attempt” to salvage the tribunal in the hopes more claims will be lodged, according to Peadar Tóibín, Aontú leader.
“It is clear, however, that women are voting with their feet,” he said.
“A mere 17 women have opted to go through the tribunal, while last year over 100 others have taken the legal route.
“The minister needs to admit that he was wrong to ignore the concerns of the 221 plus group around the nature of this tribunal.”