Cervical smear victim slams State over "sham" settlement talks

The Government had pledged not to drag any more women through the courts

Cervical smear victim slams State over "sham" settlement talks

Ruth Morrissey leaving the High Court in Dublin, 26-07-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

The couple at the centre of the latest cervical cancer misdiagnosis case before the High Court have described mediation talks with State as a "sham."

Ruth and Paul Morrissey from Monaleen in County Limerick said the state has shown no interest whatsoever in resolving their case.

In a statement this evening, they said they feel “deep hurt” at what they view as a deliberate attempt by the State and its claims agency to misrepresent what happened in mediation talks earlier this week.

They spoke out after the State Claims Agency (SCA) issued a press release calling for renewed negotiations on a settlement and insisting the organisation aims to resolve cases through mediation where possible.

Mediation

The couple said the State has had four days to make an effort to engage with them in settlement discussions – and chose not to.

In the statement, the couple’s solicitor Cian O'Carroll noted that the SCA appeared to be trying to paint itself as “a frustrated but benign defendant, seeking to resolve this case without a trial.”

He said the couple believe the State showed no interest in resolving their case before “the media focus on their ordeal in court this week.”

He said the State previously “rejected several dates for mediation” and only agreed to meet the couple after the Judge invited them to do so.

“At that mediation [...] a woman who is gravely ill, together with her distraught husband, were required to wait around for almost four hours of ‘mediation’ during which not a single cent was offered,” he said.

He said the couple believed the discussion was confidential, “though now it forms part of a press release to suit the purposes of the State Claims Agency.”

Government pledge

He noted that both the Taoiseach and the Minster for Health both gave “clear and public assurances just ten weeks ago that no other woman would be dragged through the courts” as a result of the cervical check scandal.

He said the State is well aware that the way to conduct a negotiation is to make an approach through the respective legal teams for the parties.

He said negotiations should not be conducted through “a media release clearly aimed at offering cover to the exposed flank of government, embarrassed by the obvious conflict between how Ruth and Paul have been treated this week and the remarks of Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris.”

“A meaningful approach to dispute resolution begins with sincerity and not with a cynical and self-serving press release,” he said.

Broken promises

This evening, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on health, Stephen Donnelly warned that the Government’s promises to the victims of the Cervical Check scandal have been repeatedly broken.

He said the Taoiseach and Minister for Health must explain why the women affected are still ending up in court.

“The State Claims Agency did not come into the Dáil and promise Parliament that there would be no court cases,” he said.

“The State Claims Agency never made any promises of these kinds.

“These were political promises, made by the Taoiseach of our country and the Minister for Health and they need to either back up those promises today – or stand up and issue a public apology to those women and say that they made false promises that they shouldn’t have made and had no intention of keeping.”

He said the scandal “lies 100% with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health and we need to hear from them about why the most serious and important of promises that they made to the women of Cervical Check have been repeatedly broken."

Wrongful reading

Ruth Morrissey was given wrongful readings of two smear tests in 2009 and 2012 - analysed by labs based in the US and Dublin.

Both tests gave her the all-clear, however she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014 and it came back this year.

The court heard earlier in the week that the HSE became aware of the incorrect reports in 2014, but she was only told two months ago.

Her case is the second case of its kind to go to hearing before the courts - but there are many more waiting in the wings.