Sinn Féin to table motion of no confidence in HSE chief

The party has repeatedly called for Tony O'Brien to step down over the Cervical Check scandal

Sinn Féin to table motion of no confidence in HSE chief

File photo of HSE director general Tony O’Brien, 13-11-2017. Image: Sasko Lazarov/Newstalk

Sinn Féin will move a motion of no confidence in HSE boss Tony O'Brien in the Dáil next week, as the fallout from the CervicalCheck scandal continues.

The party has repeatedly called for him to step down for his handling of the controversy – however he insists he knew nothing about the situation until he saw it on the news last week. 

He only has a few months left on his contract and was due to step down in July.

While Fianna Fáil has been critical of Mr O'Brien, only one TD has publicly called for his resignation.

Party leader Micheál Martin will now have to decide whether to support the no confidence motion in the head of an organisation he himself set up in 2004.

The government, meanwhile, believes he can better serve an investigation into the scandal by staying in the role.

Cervical cancer

The scandal was brought to light after terminally ill mother Vicky Phelan settled a case  after having her own diagnosis delayed, leading to her cancer being more developed when she learned of it.

The case revealed that of 208 women whose smear tests were reviewed as part of an audit of Ireland’s national cervical screening programme, only 46 had been informed about the history of their smear tests.

The case has sparked an audit of hundreds of women's results, amid fears that some Cancers could have been diagnosed earlier.

The majority of the original 208 have since been contacted.

This afternoon, the Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Peter Boylan told Newstalk’s Lunchtime Live that he hopes things will change after the investigation is complete:

“What I hope is that there will be compulsory, mandatory disclosure,” he said. “Open disclosure.”

“Because voluntary has not worked.

“That will help in the sort of open partnership arrangement that doctors will have with patients in the future.

“I think that is obviously the way to go – to treat women as fully functioning adults.”


Meanwhile, the Health Minister is being asked to ensure no more smear tests are sent to labs that have made mistakes.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett claims rechecks are being sent to three laboratories - one of which is a sister company of the firm at the centre of the Vicky Phelan case.

Vicky Phelan was asked to sign a gagging order when she got a pay out from American firm CPL, which missed abnormal cells in her smear.

Deputy Boyd Barrett says he has no trust in firms that insist on secrecy.

“The concern here is how can we get to the bottom of it if a company we possibly are still using for testing – or their sister company – is trying to gag people,” he said.

“That is absolutely indefensible.

“That we are using a company that tries to gag people and hide the truth from the public about mistakes that is has made.”

Earlier this week, Mr O’Brien temporarily stepped aside from his role as a board member with a US Medical manufacturer to deal with the crisis.