The Minister for Health has given a commitment that the Government will fund a new independent patient advocacy service to assist those affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald pointed out that the Programme for Government commits to the establishment of an independent patient advocacy service and this has not been met.

She said that the Standing for Women group held rallies across the country on Saturday in support of the victims of the CervicalCheck scandal.

Ms McDonald said that despite all the assurances given by the Government in relation to the scandal, "serious issues remain for the women affected and their families.

"Women are still being forced through the courts to access their medical files," she said.

"The essential review of 3,000 cervical smear slides has not begun. The final report of the scoping investigation being conducted by Dr Gabriel Scally is delayed and women are having terrible difficulty accessing the €2,000 payment that you announced," she said to Simon Harris.

The Sinn Féin leader said that Vicky Phelan and Stephen Teap called for an independent patient advocacy group to be established specifically for these women and their families.

Ms McDonald said that this "practical idea" and should be established as a "bare minimum".

Mr Harris said the Government is directly interacting with people who have been affected by the CervicalCheck situation.

He pointed out that a special steering group has been set up and it meets every Thursday.

That committee's minutes, agendas and all other documents are published on the Department of Health website.

Mr Harris said that there are two advocates on that committee.

He added: "We will indeed fund that advocacy service and we have conveyed that to some of the advocates involved."