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'Like a slap in the face': Vicky Phelan says women's concerns over CervicalCheck Tribunal have been ignored

Phelan said when it emerged the Tribunal would be set up within the next seven days, “it felt like a slap in the face”.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE MINISTER FOR Health has said he is prepared to meet with members of the 221+ group in the coming days, after campaigner Vicky Phelan expressed the group’s anger around the proposed establishment next week of a Tribunal into the CervicalCheck scandal.

Stephen Donnelly’s comments come following remarks from Phelan this morning who said: “Why is it so hard to do what’s right for women who have already been failed by the State?”

The minister brought a memo to Cabinet earlier this week that would set up the long-awaited Tribunal to investigate negligence in the State’s cervical cancer screening programme. The Tribunal was first announced by government in 2018.

In a thread on Twitter last night, Phelan said that women and families were not afforded an opportunity to respond to the minister’s decision to establish the Tribunal before it was announced. 

She outlined how the plans outlined by the minister did not address significant concerns that the 221+ group – a CervicalCheck patients support group – had raised, such as the inclusion of laboratories in the Tribunal proceedings, women who suffered a recurrence of their cancer and the statute of limitations.

“We met the Minister and officials from [the Department of Health] on a Zoom meeting just 6 weeks ago,” she said. “We set out several aspects of the proposed Tribunal that were causing us, and our members, serious concern. The Minister’s response yesterday is a flat rejection of ALL of our concerns.”

Phelan said that if the minister did not meet with them and consider what they had raised, then it would be recommended that members of the 221+ group do not participate with the Tribunal. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Phelan repeated that none of the concerns raised by the 221+ group around the Tribunal have been addressed.

She said when it emerged the Tribunal would be set up within the next seven days, “it felt like a slap in the face”. 

Phelan said she didn’t see any point in establishing a Tribunal for women and families affected by the CervicalCheck scandal if it’s “not fit for purpose”.

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“I’m really weary at this stage from all the fighting,” she said. “I thought the Tribunal was a good outcome for women and families.”

She added that, two years later, what’s being proposed by the government doesn’t have “women and families at its heart”. 

On the same programme, Minister Donnelly said he was prepared to meet with members of the 221+ group over the next few days. 

He said that “everything we’re doing is trying to find the best way forward for the 221+ group” and this process was about creating the “least amount of adversary possible”.

He added that advice had been received from the Attorney General on matters related to the Tribunal and its set-up, and the goal was to “set up a situation that works for women”. 

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Sean Murray

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