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Taoiseach says he 'should have been clearer' over CervicalCheck court comments

Varadkar promised in May that pending cases over the ongoing scandal would be be dealt with through mediation.

THE Taoiseach and Minister for Health are coming under pressure to explain why women affected by the Cervical Check scandal are still ending up in court.
THE Taoiseach and Minister for Health are coming under pressure to explain why women affected by the Cervical Check scandal are still ending up in court.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR says he is “not in hiding” over a promise that pending cases in relation to the CervicalCheck scandal would not go to court.

The Taoiseach has come in for a barrage of criticism in recent days after promising in May that any cases being taken by women affected by the scandal would be dealt with through mediation.

A number women have since been forced to give evidence about their cases at the High Court, including Ruth Morrissey, who is suffering from terminal cancer and appeared in court last week after mediation talks in her case broke down.

Stephen Teap, whose wife was one of 17 women who passed away following two incorrect smear tests, said over the weekend that “people like Ruth [Morrissey]” needed a leader to stand up for them, something Varadkar was “failing to do”.

And this morning, Labour Health spokesperson Alan Kelly called for the Taoiseach to explain why the promise had not been delivered upon.

FILE PHOTO File Photo Vicky Phelan Criticizes Government Over Ruth Morrissey Case. END 26 Ruth Morrissey, of Schoolhouse Road, Monaleen in Co Limerick, and her husband Paul at the High Court Dublin. Source: Leah Farrell

Responding today, the Taoiseach said that while he was unable to discuss ongoing court actions, he defended his promise.

“I’m not in hiding, but I’m sure you’ll understand that I am limited in what I can say in an ongoing court case,” he said, speaking specifically about the case being taken by Morrissey.

“Certainly what the Government wants is for all cases to be settled by mediation, so the women can avoid a court trial; that is absolutely what we want.”

However, Varadkar admitted that he should have been clearer when he made his promise that women also had a right to take their cases to court if they weren’t happy with the outcome of mediation.

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He said: “I acknowledge … the constitutional right of anyone to go to court if they feel that’s in their best interests.

“Perhaps I should have been more clear about that back in May, acknowledging that people have a constitutional right to go to court if they feel it’s in their best interests.

“No government can take that away, nor should any government want to take that away.”

Meanwhile, a statement from Health Minister Simon Harris said the government has been “very clear” that it did not want to see any woman having to go to court, and that mediation was offered “in every case, as promised”.

With additional reporting by Christina Finn.

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