The Taoiseach has said that a High Court judge has been asked to identify alternative mechanisms to avoid court proceedings over the CervicalCheck controversy.

In a statement issued after a meeting with Vicky Phelan at Government Buildings today, Leo Varadkar said that Mr Justice Charles Meenan will engage with the affected women, their families and representatives.

The judge will report to Minister for Health Simon Harris within two months.

Ms Phelan, the woman who first brought the CervicalCheck controversy to light, said she had been assured by Mr Varadkar that the State would try to settle all cases through mediation.

Speaking after the talks, which lasted for more than two hours, the mother-of-two said that: "where mediation doesn't work, and labs are contesting a case, an alternative dispute resolution mechanism will be sculpted out".

Ms Phelan said that Mr Varadkar also told her that his preference is to hold a Commission of Investigation into the controversy in public.

In April, she was awarded €2.5m in a settlement against the US laboratory that carried out the smear test over a false negative result in 2011.

She requested today's meeting after Limerick woman Ruth Morrissey had to give evidence last week in her action against the Health Service Executive and two laboratories.

Earlier this week, Ms Phelan said she was angry and shocked that another terminally-ill woman was being dragged through the courts.

Yesterday Ms Morrissey's legal action was adjourned until September.

Vicky Phelan said that, in relation to Ruth Morrissey's case, Mr Varadkar told her that the State Claims Agency will return to mediation after the agency claimed that a settlement offer could not be made because expert reports were not ready.

Ms Phelan said that Ms Morrissey's legal team may dispute this.

Ms Phelan added that she was "frank and brutally honest" with the Taoiseach about how "harrowing a place the courtroom is".

Physical review of cervical smear slides not yet under way

The promised physical review of 3,000 cervical smear slides, to be conducted by a team in Britain, has yet to begin.

In a statement, the Government said consent forms will be issued "very shortly" to the 221 women or families identified in the first group affected.

Originally the review was promised to be completed by the end of May.

At the beginning of last month, RTÉ News revealed that the review had not started.

On 5 July, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was "very dissatisfied" that the review had not begun.

The Department of Health later said it would take between four and six months for it to be completed by a review panel, led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

In its latest statement, the Government said "work to support" the International Clinical Expert Review Panel is underway.

"Consent will be sought from the women affected or their families for their participation in the clinical review.  The first letters seeking consent of the 221 women will issue very shortly", it added.

Widower calls for accountabilty over CervicalCheck

Meanwhile, the husband of a woman who died due to cervical cancer has said he wants someone to be held accountable for CervicalCheck failures.

Ben Lawless said his wife Edel, who was 45, was one of over 200 women not told their smear tests had been audited.

The couple lived in Dublin and have six children.

Mr Lawless said his wife had a CervicalCheck smear test in 2011 and 2013 but was not diagnosed with cancer until around August 2014.

She underwent treatment and had been given the all-clear in April 2015.

However the cancer returned and he said she went through absolute hell.

Edel Lawless died on 31 October 2017, on the anniversary of the couple's wedding.

Mr Lawless said the family had lost everything and only learned around June of this year that his wife was one of over 200 women whose smear tests had been audited but results had not been shared with them.

"I'm not a whole person anymore. I never thought I'd be a widower at 45," he told RTÉ News.

Additional reporting: Fergal Bowers