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Vicky Phelan feels 'betrayed' after Department orders establishment of CervicalCheck Tribunal

The Department confirmed that an order establishing a tribunal had been signed and said “this could not be reversed”.
Oct 28th 2020, 7:57 AM 38,489 30

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health has said the establishment of a CervicalCheck Tribunal “could not be reversed” despite criticism from representatives of the 221+ Group who had wanted the Tribunal to be paused. 

Campaigner Vicky Phelan yesterday said the Department had originally agreed to pause its establishment to allow it to engage with members of the group. 

Ms Phelan said yesterday evening, however, that “this promise was broken” and that a statutory order establishing the Tribunal was signed last Friday meaning the effective start date of the Tribunal began on Tuesday.  

In a statement, the Department confirmed that the order had been signed and said “this could not be reversed”.

“Following a meeting with the 221+ Group on Monday, October 26th, the Minister for Health and officials from Department of Health formally pursued the delaying of the establishment of the CervicalCheck tribunal,” the Department of Health said in a statement last night. 

“However, as the order establishing the tribunal had already been signed and sent for publication on Friday 23rd, this could not be reversed. This means that, technically and formally, the date of October 27th stands as the establishment day under the Act.

“All further actions with regard to establishing the tribunal, including the appointment of the chairperson and members to properly constitute the tribunal, have been paused as agreed. This was communicated to the chairperson-designate of the tribunal on Monday evening.

“As the tribunal was officially established on October 27th, the nine-month period for making claims will run from today. This is the only practical impact of the establishment of the tribunal today. However, the Government will extend the length of the tribunal by additional days to cover this period if necessary,” the statement concluded. 

Ms Phelan and others from the 221+ Group – which was set up to support women and families identified arising out of the CervicalCheck scandal – met the Minister last Monday.

Tribunal issues 

Ms Phelan has previously raised concerns around the CervicalCheck tribunal including the issue of the recurrence of  cervical cancer. 

Ms Phelan said this week that “if the cancer comes back, there’s no other way out of it – that’s fatal.”

“There has to be some inclusion in the tribunal legislation to allow for that,” she told Newstalk Breakfast. 

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Ms Phelan also said that some victims will be barred from inclusion in the Tribunal due to the statute of limitations on the original case she took against the State, which ended in May.

She said that “it’s the government who have delayed the tribunal” and said this issue needs to be addressed. 

Speaking yesterday evening, Ms Phelan said “the Minister should not have signed the order last week allowing the tribunal to be established”, adding that it is “not fit for purpose”.

She said the Minister knew “as early as last Tuesday” that the 221+ campaign group was “not happy with the format of the tribunal and that we would not support it”.

Ms Phelan stated that she and her fellow campaigners “have communicated the issues very clearly and what needs to happen“.

Ms Phelan said “it is now firmly up to the Minister and Government to right this wrong and make good on the demands of the 221+ Group for a just and fair Tribunal”. 

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Cónal Thomas

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