The 221+ support group for women and families adversely affected by the CervicalCheck controversy has written to the Minister for Health saying it is withdrawing from any further consultation over the CervicalCheck Tribunal, describing it as a "pointless waste of time".

The letter was signed by members of the group's executive committee, including Vicky Phelan, who is having ongoing treatment for terminal cancer.

In a statement, 221+ said it had written to the Minister for Health to "end exchanges in respect of the CervicalCheck Tribunal and express our utter frustration at the pointless waste of time that has been the past three weeks".

It followed a letter sent to them by Minister Stephen Donnelly in which they said he "acknowledged that it has not been possible to meet the requested adjustments in the working of the Tribunal in respect of the statute of limitations or the issue of recurrence".

Last month, speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Phelan described plans for the Tribunal as "not fit for purpose" and a "slap in the face" to the women involved.

Among the main concerns raised by the 221+ group was the failure to make allowances for a woman to return to the Tribunal if she gets a recurrence of cancer and the statute of limitations.

"The legislation to create the Tribunal was passed in June 2019 ... in the meantime, judicial decisions made in the cases of Ruth Morrissey and Patricia Carrick had changed the legal context for any CervicalCheck related case," said the group's statement.

"We sought to have changes made to the Tribunal to reflect that changed context. We didn't just point out the problems, we also proposed solutions.

"We acknowledge that some of those solutions were not possible at the stroke of a pen - but they are entirely possible if those in Government had the will to act with the interests and needs of this group of victims at heart. They clearly do not.

"We see no point in continuing this process."

The Department of Health issued a statement to RTÉ News saying the minister's priority was to "facilitate the least onerous process for the women and families affected".

It said: "The Tribunal is a more compassionate alternative to legal proceedings in the High Court, based on recommendations set out by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in his 2018 report on an alternative system for dealing with cases.  

"It offers a better route for women and families to progress their legal actions in a private and less confrontational setting than the High Court. It confers the same rights as the High Court and allows for more timely access, as well as a more sensitive environment.

"A number of women and families have tried to lodge claims at the Tribunal in recent weeks but were unable to do so as the Tribunal is currently paused."

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane expressed "deep regret" that talks concerning the CervicalCheck Tribunal and the 221+ Group had collapsed.

"The women impacted by the CervicalCheck scandal deserve compassionate treatment," he said in a statement.

"There must be a guarantee that no women in the 221+ group is statute barred from making a claim at the Tribunal.

"If this requires a change in legislation then this must be facilitated."