CervicalCheck 'so-called apology' branded 'damage limitation'

Dr Nóirín Russell apologised for 'inconsiderate and hurtful' comments
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.30 5 Sep 2022

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CervicalCheck 'so-called apolo...

CervicalCheck 'so-called apology' branded 'damage limitation'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.30 5 Sep 2022

Share this article

A CervicalCheck campaigner has said an apology from the head of the service doesn't go far enough.

It's after Dr Nóirín Russell apologised over the weekend for 'inconsiderate and hurtful' comments about women making claims against the service.

In 2020, she said some women claiming through the tribunal on the service's failures know 'in their heart and soul that they haven't been wronged'.


Stephen Teap from the 221+ Group was asked on Lunchtime Live if the apology went far enough.

"No it doesn't, not at all.

"We received a letter late Saturday afternoon from Dr Russell - it was this so-called apology.

"And we just responded with 'Look we cannot forward this on to our members as we have no idea what this is in relation to'.

"At the time [on] Saturday we hadn't even seen the article.

"I was made aware that there was an article coming out on Sunday when Nóirín Russell e-mailed an apology Saturday afternoon.

"And when we received this letter it was - to be honest with you - more upsetting than the article itself because it wasn't really an apology.

"There was no retraction of words, it was damage limitation at that point".

Stephen said this follows a culture of 'deny, protect and silence'.

"The words 'in their heart and soul that they haven't been wronged', for me, is just a continuation of this culture that we've been battling for the last couple of years.

"This culture of - within the HSE and our healthcare system - of deny, protect and silence those that have been wronged."

'We're not shocked by this'

He said for the system to be "dismissive of those women is absolutely horrendous, disgusting.

"I just struggle to find the words really to explain, I suppose, the emotions that we're feeling on the back of this".

He said change is needed in the HSE, and the next step is up its chief executive.

"We need to see some action here driven from the top down now from Paul Reid, and I suppose all of those senior managers in the HSE.

"What we really need to see is... the acknowledgement of Dr [Gabriel] Scally's report for once.

"This was an independent review where he got medical experts in to review the goings on within CervicalCheck and the lab.

"And the conclusion that he came up [with] that it was a system that was doomed to fail".

Stephen added: "These comments are what you and your listeners and everybody sees today.

"This is the attitude that we've been witnessing week-in, week-out over the last four years throughout all our campaigning from a very minor few within the healthcare system.

"We're not shocked by this, we've seen it before - but at this stage it's now spilled out onto the streets".

'I apologise sincerely'

In a statement to Newstalk, Dr Russell said: "I made these remarks during an hour-long call with Deputy [Peadar] Tóibín in December 2020.

"My motivation for meeting the Deputy was to talk with him about comments he made about the CervicalCheck programme which I felt could have a negative effect on women.

"The meeting took place nearly two years ago, when I had been in the role of CervicalCheck clinical director for just a few months.

"It was an informal discussion around complex issues which I wasn't aware was being recorded.

"Now, two years later, reflecting on some of my comments in that private meeting, and with the knowledge and personal experience I have gained in my role as clinical director over that time, I fully accept that they were careless and hurtful to women.

"I am sorry for the impression the remarks give, because they do not reflect my view."

She added: "I completely understand and accept that women who received a cancer diagnosis were upset and traumatised to find out they had cancer after having done all the right things by attending screening.

"For some of them this was compounded by the rushed and inadequate way we communicated their audit findings to them at that time.

"I also accept fully their right to seek redress either via the courts or the tribunal.

"I truly regret the upset caused to women by these remarks and I apologise sincerely for that."

Main image: Stephen Teap outside the Department of Health after a meeting with the Minister in July 2019. Picture by:Leah Farrell/

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