Leo Varadkar says the Government was "only finding out facts often at the same time as the media"
The Taoiseach says he understands the dissatisfaction felt over the response to the Cervical Check scandal.
Protests are being planned today in Cork and Dublin over the controversy.
A newly-formed group has been staging a demonstration outside the Dáil this lunchtime, while a march is taking place in Cork at 3pm from Bishop Lucey Park.
Leo Varadkar says the Government is committed to finding the truth and reassuring women going forward.
He said: "The most important thing is that we get it right - that's why we've put in place the package of supports for women and their families who are affected; it's why we've set up the inquiry so we can get to the truth, and we can find out why women weren't informed of this.
"It is important to point out that nobody was ever not told they had cancer... nobody ever had the diagnosis of cancer withheld from them. The audit only started after all of the women had already been diagnosed with cancer and were already being treated."
The Taoiseach observed that the Government knows that other issues it deals with - such as Brexit or the Budget - are coming, but the cervical screening controversy caught them by surprise.
He suggested: "As a Government, we were only finding out facts often at the same time as the media were or the opposition were. So we weren't able to respond to it in the way we might liked to have - so I understand the dissatisfaction that a lot of people feel around that."
209 women women were directly affected by the scandal, where audits showed their test could have provided a different result.
The HSE says it has made contact with all but two of the women or families impacted.