Minister for Health Simon Harris has said it is not acceptable that Ruth Morrissey, one of the women caught up in the CervicalCheck controversy, has been forced to take her case to court.

Mrs Morrissey had to give evidence last week in her action against the Health Service Executive and two laboratories.

Speaking on RTÉ's Radio Today with Miriam, Mr Harris said that he was angry and upset that it had happened, but acknowledged that he was probably nowhere near as upset as Mrs Morrissey and her family are.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

He said mediation has worked in a number of cases but clearly this approach had hit a "roadblock" in the case of Mrs Morrissey.

Mr Harris said the Government would be trying to find a way of overcoming this roadblock.

He said there are limitations to screening but there needed to be a process where negligence is established.

Mr Harris also said the key thing was to ensure that this process was not adversarial and this was why the Government had asked Mr Justice Charles Meenan to examine the issue.


Read More:

Govt attempts to avoid future court actions over CervicalCheck 
Morrissey case adjourned until September


Mr Harris said that the controversy was symptomatic of a broader need to reform medical negligence in Ireland and there have been far too many cases, for example, where the parents of ill children have been forced to go through lengthy court cases to get redress.

The minister said Mr Justice Meehan’s report, which is due in two months, has the potential to be a game changer in this regard.

He also said mediation will be recommencing in Mrs Morrissey’s case.

On the issue of the physical review of the 3,000 cervical smear slides, he said the HSE has sent an initial letter advising women that they will be receiving another letter in a week's time seeking their consent to participate in the review.

Mr Harris said they had to balance timelines with getting the process right but said he accepted that the process was taking longer than it was meant to.

He also confirmed that the State is continuing to use the same labs for reading smear tests.

Responding to Mr Harris' comments, solicitor Cian O'Carroll, who is representing some of the women involved in the controversy, said there seems to be a return to the line that the 221 women affected are part of some normal screening errors.

He said they were in fact a special group selected by CervicalCheck because of the degree of the error that was picked up following a review of their case.

Speaking on the same programme, he said they should not be made to feel bad for looking for redress when they have been so seriously wronged.

Mr Harris accused the State of effectively hiding behind the women involved.

"As long as the State continues with its current policy, which is to push the women out front and do the fighting for them, while the State effectively hides behind them and says we can't do anything because our hands are tied then this will continue case after case," he said.

Mr O'Carroll said it was also wrong to say that mediation had worked in two cases in the past.

He said he worked on both of the cases mentioned and neither were resolved in this way.

Widower hits out a 'culture' at core of issue

The husband of a woman who died from cervical cancer has welcomed the appointment of Mr Justice Meehan to identify alternative mechanisms to avoid court proceedings over the controversy.

Stephen Teap described it as better late than never.

His 35-year-old wife Irene received incorrect smear test results and was not told about the mistake.

The mother of two died in July last year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Teap said it was not the women of Ireland that signed a contract with the medical laboratories in question and if something goes wrong the women affected should not have to take them on separately.

He said the State needed to step in and settle on behalf of the labs and go after them separately.

He said the culture within the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive and even the State Claims Agency was at the core of this.

"This culture of 'protect, deny and silence' this is what's currently being put in the spotlight now and it’s definitely something that has to be addressed.

"We've heard all different stories all through the years being dragged through the High Court, being dragged to the point of bankruptcy, very, very sick people being dragged all the way to Dublin to the High Court.

"There has to be a better solution for this going forward and look if we can use this now to make change, let's do it," said Mr Teap.