Government accused of "repeatedly breaking" cervical scandal promises

Ruth Morrissey's case became the second to come before the courts this week

Government accused of "repeatedly breaking" cervical scandal promises

Pictured (LtoR) Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Health Minister Simon Harris and Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath at a press conference on the Cervical Check scandal, 11-05-2018. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The Taoiseach and Minister for Health are coming under increasing pressure to explain why women affected by the Cervical Check scandal are still ending up in court.

Last night, the family of Ruth Morrissey, who was given two wrongful readings of her cervical smear test before being diagnosed with cancer, slammed the State over its handling of her case.

They described attempts to reach an agreement through mediation as a “sham” and spoke of their “deep hurt” at what they said was a deliberate attempt by the State to misrepresent what happened.

The case this week became the second of its kind to appear before the courts – after Vicky Phelan’s ordeal three months ago.

Ms Phelan’s experience brought the Cervical Check scandal to light – and saw Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris promising the Dáil that no other women would be dragged through the courts over the scandal.

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

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on health, Stephen Donnelly last night warned that the Government’s promises to the victims of the scandal have been repeatedly broken

“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.

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."

"Disgrace"

Labour’s health spokesperson Alan Kelly said it is a "disgrace."

“They obviously, as a Government, have learned nothing from the Vicky Phelan case – or Emma Mhic Mhathúna,” he said.

“It is absolutely disgraceful; it is wrong.

“In the Dáil the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste told all of us that this would not happen – it is now happening.

“Also, the State Claims Agency told me in Committee that this would not be allowed to happen and they were going to follow the instructions of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste – they are not.”

Labour Party health spokesperson Alan Kelly with the party’s housing spokesperson Jan O’Sullivan and Senator Ivana Bacik on the plinth at Leinster House, 02-05-2018. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

"Cynical and self-serving"

The Morrissey family spoke out last night 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.

In response, the family’s solicitor Cian O’Connell accused the agency of attempting to “paint itself as “a frustrated but benign defendant, seeking to resolve this case without a trial.”

He said it 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 it to do so.

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

Mediation

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said minister Harris has been "very clear he does not want to see any woman having to go to court."

"Mediation is now offered in every case, as it was in this one," she said.

"While mediation may not always succeed at first it remains an option and the Minister wants to see this case come out of court and return to mediation so that a settlement can be sought in a sensitive way.

"He has made his wishes in relation to this very clearly known."

She said the State Claims Agency yesterday wrote to both laboratories involved in the Morrissey case asking them to join mediation talks as soon as possible.

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.