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Dublin: 9°C Monday 29 November 2021

Dáil holds minute's silence and Taoiseach apologises to the late Ruth Morrissey and her family

Both Labour’s Alan Kelly and the Social Democrats’ Róisín Shortall said the apology “is too late”.

mm Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil this afternoon. Source: Oireachtas.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has apologised on behalf of the State to the late Ruth Morrissey, her family and other affected women for the “litany of failures” within CervicalCheck. 

The Limerick woman died at the age of 39 over the weekend, having previously won a case against the HSE and two laboratories that examined her cervical smear tests.

Her legal action led to more than 200 women eventually learning that they were affected by incorrect smear test results.

“I know that her husband Paul and her daughter Libby and all her family and friends are truly devastated. No words of mine will provide them with any consolation at this heartbreaking time,” the Taoiseach said. 

“Ruth along with many other brave women who were brought together by their diagnosis of this terrible illness worked together to highlight diagnostic failings in this country’s CervicalCheck screening program, so that others would not have to go through what they went through.

On behalf of the State I would like again to sincerely apologise to Ruth, to Ruth’s family, to all the other women and their families, for the litany of failures in relation to the operation of cervical screening in Ireland for many years. 

“This government, like the previous government, acknowledges the failures that took place with the CervicalCheck programmes and are profoundly sorry for what was allowed to happen. Too many women who should be here enjoying life with their families are gone because of those failings. 

“Those of us who are here and have the responsibility of elected office, have a solemn duty to learn the lessons of the errors that were made and to reform the system and to make sure that never happened again,” the Taoiseach added. 

After the Taoiseach’s remarks, the Dáil stood in silence to commemorate the late campaigner. 

Members wore face coverings in the Dáil for the sitting but are permitted to remove them while speaking. 

silen Masks won in the Dáil during the moment silence. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Following the minute’s silence, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that Morrissey “paid the ultimate price” for failures within the system. 

McDonald said that fixing the system would be “the only lasting tribute that can be made” and she urged the Taoiseach to commit to fast-tracking a national laboratory for cervical testing, noting that 90% of samples are sent to the United States for testing. 

“As the late Emma Mhic Mhathuna once said, talk is cheap, it’s action that must follow,” McDonald said.

So Taoiseach will you now intervene and ensure that the State accepts and acknowledges its responsibility and liability and stops dragging very sick women through the courts? Will you Taoiseach accept that the outsourcing of screening has been a disastrous failure? You have committed to the establishment of a national laboratory for cervical testing, this needs to happen as a matter of urgency.

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In relation to the tribunal being established to provide an alternative system to the courts for dealing with claims, Martin said that there had been delays in its implementation but that it remains “the most effective mechanism”. 

alan kelly Labour's Alan Kelly. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Both Labour leader Alan Kelly and Social Democrats leader Róisín Shortall said the apology made by the Taoiseach to Ruth Morrissey “is too late”. 

Kelly said that Morrissey’s husband Paul “made that quite clear”. 

In his statement confirming his wife’s death, Paul said that “despite the magnitude of the harm caused to her by avoidable errors, despite the broken promise of a Taoiseach who said no other woman would have to go to trial, despite using Ruth as a test case through the final years and months of her life, neither the HSE nor the State has ever apologised to her, and now it is too late.”

“I will also be asking you to ensure that the process by which the Tribunal proceeds is changed to be less adversarial. It cannot be a carbon copy,” Kelly told the Taoiseach.

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Rónán Duffy

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