Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said that commentary that adds to the distress and hurt of women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy is "very regrettable".

He said the comments do not represent the work of the HSE's CervicalCheck programme or the work of its Clinical Director Dr Nóirín Russell.

It follows a report in The Sunday Times of a recorded conversation in 2020 between Dr Russell and Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD on CervicalCheck issues.

Minister Donnelly said that he understands Dr Russell has written "a public apology " to the 221+ group and hopes the work to build and enhance trust in the programme continues.

Paul Reid, the HSE chief, said that he regretted the remarks Dr Nóirín Russell had made.

He said that they do not reflect the view of the HSE or CervicalCheck.

Mr Reid said that Dr Russell had apologised very sincerely and would work to regain the trust lost.

In a statement, Dr Russell said that reflecting on her comments then, she fully accepts they were careless and hurtful to women.

Dr Russell said she had only recently taken up her post at the time and the comments do not reflect her views now.

Mr Tóibín said that CervicalCheck and the HSE were in direct contradiction with Supreme Court decisions and with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste's State apologies to women affected.

He said that during his meeting with CervicalCheck in 2020, they told him that their position was that the courts were wrong to be ruling in favour of women.

Mr Tóibín said that Vicky Phelan, Ruth Morrissey, Patricia Carrick, Emma Mhic Mhathúna and so many others were not merely "unfortunate", they were gravely wronged by the system.

In a statement, the 221+ group said the latest development was scarcely believable but "sadly does not come as a surprise to us."

It said that it was consistent with what the organisation, representing over 300 people, had heard and felt over the past two years and it was a relief that the public could now see the attitudes of CervicalCheck behind closed doors that it has been dealing with.

It said that many of its members are being retraumatised by the comments.

In a post on social media, Head of Advocacy for the Irish Cancer Society Rachel Morrogh said that in 2019, the Taoiseach said: "We're sorry for the humiliation, disrespect and deceit, the false reassurance, the attempts by some to play down the seriousness of the debacle, and inaccuracies and claims from others, all of which added to confusion and public concern."

She added: "And here we are again."

Mr Donnelly said that his department, the HSE CervicalCheck team and the Government were working to ensure the screening programme was among the best in the world.

He said that this includes implementing all of the recommendations of the Dr Gabriel Scally report on the controversy.

Dr Scally is currently working on his final report for Government.

Last week, RTÉ News revealed that the 221+ group had taken issue with CervicalCheck over a guide issued to the media, academics and others on screening, accusing it of an attempt to rewrite history.