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'I woke up to a whitewash': Vicky Phelan hits out at leaking of CervicalCheck review

“Information continues to be withheld from women and I will continue to fight back.”

2121-vicky-phelan_90550410 Vicky Phelan arriving at Government Buildings for a meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last month. . Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

VICKY PHELAN HAS criticised the leaking of information from a report into the CervicalCheck controversy.

A number of media outlets today reported that the review conducted by Dr Gabriel Scally has concluded that a commission of investigation does not need to be established. 

RTÉ News reports that Scally has determined he has “uncovered what needs to be uncovered” and that the system should now be repaired with his recommendations rather than wait years for a commission to report back. 

A briefing between Scally and some of the people affected by the recommendations was due to take place tomorrow but may now be moved forward to today. 

Vicky, who has terminal cancer, said she had a lie-in this morning “to prepare myself for the gruelling week of interviews ahead” and woke up to “a whitewash”. 

“Today was the day I had set aside to pick up my kids from school and spend some time with them. That is now NOT going to happen. I find myself in the same position as I did a few months ago when I found out that I had not been informed about my own health,” she tweeted

Information continues to be withheld from women and I will continue to fight back.

Stephen Teap, whose late wife Irene was also affected by the scandal, earlier said he was “heartbroken at the disrespect shown towards the women and families in this scandal”.

‘Regrettable’

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Health Simon Harris said it is “extremely regrettable” that details of the review were leaked before impacted women and families were briefed. 

“Truthfully I don’t know who leaked it, I’d like to know who leaked it,” Harris said.

He said he is attempting to arrange for Vicky, Stephen and Lorraine Walsh, another woman affected by the scandal, to meet Scally today instead of the planned meeting tomorrow. 

The controversy came into the public eye in April when Vicky settled a High Court action against the HSE and Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) for €2.5 million over incorrect smear test results from 2011, which failed to show she had cancer.

The smear tests of more 200 women may have been incorrect, a HSE audit found, and there has been much criticism over delays in telling those affected. 18 women impacted by the controversy have died.

Hitting out at the leak today, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said:

“Everything has to be leaked by this government. Everything has to be about spin. They seem incapable, it’s either a combination of immaturity or downright cynicism that they behave in this manner. The people are fed up with this kind of political theatre, game playing, trying to set the agenda all the time. Everyday, we’ll leak this, we’ll spin it this way. Maybe the government don’t want a commission of inquiry, and that’s why they got this out to set the scene for that particular debate.”

Martin said due to the sensitive nature of the report questions must now be answered. 

“I think the Minister needs to be honest. Did his political colleagues get a copy of the report? Who leaked it? Can he publicly say who has read this report? It shouldn’t be rocket science. I think it’s particularly cruel to the victims of this scandal, who should have been the first to see the report.”

Martin said he is going to read the report before making comment about whether his party wants a commission of investigation. Originally, Martin was in favour of a HIQA inquiry.

“The Minister caved in, in the Dáil, on the floor of the House and said we’re having a Commission because of pressure from the opposition. Everyone said we would have a Commission of Inquiry in the aftermath of Scally [report]. I’d like to read what Mr Scally has to say,” said Martin.

What we’re witnessing here is a scandal that has been mismanaged from the get-go by the Minister and the Government. They said in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, they said anything that would get them out of what they perceived to be political embarrassment or trouble.
They said things like we will give indemnity in the courts. To such an extent that the entire CervicalCheck screening programme could be in jeopardy. From the moment that Minister Harris was briefed by officials, I think he got this wrong, in terms of managing it and dealing with it in a comprehensive, professional way.

With additional reporting by Christina Finn

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Órla Ryan

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