Minister for Health Simon Harris has said the Taoiseach's apology in the Dáil yesterday to those affected by the CervicalCheck screening controversy was a reflection of "how the women and their families felt, and they felt deceived".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Harris said Leo Varadkar worked with the 221+ group representing many of the women affected over the last number of months so that a "meaningful" apology could be delivered.

Yesterday, Mr Varakdar apologised on behalf of the State "for the humiliation, the disrespect and deceit" shown to women caught up in the crisis.

He said: "What happened to so many women and families should not have happened. While every case was not negligence, every case was a lost opportunity for an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

"It was a failure of our health service, State, its agencies, systems and culture."

The Taoiseach said the apology "is offered to all the people the State let down. And to the families who paid the price for those failings.

"A broken service, broken promises, broken lives - a debacle that left a country heartbroken. A system that was doom to fail."

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Apology is watershed moment, say women and families
CervicalCheck controversy - A timeline of key events 

Mr Harris said he will bring a full Patient Safety Bill to Cabinet next month and that "really good work" has been done on it.

He said there was a "very big difference" between mandatory disclosure of a serious reportable incident and between the day-to-day issues that can arise in a hospital, such as inadequate food.

He said there would be no option in the bill to not tell a patient about a mishap or error, and that legislating for mandatory disclosure was something "we should have done years ago".

Mr Harris said that despite the controversy, the number of women going for cervical screenings has increased, and he thanked CervicalCheck staff across the country who have "kept the show on the road".

Historian and Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at UCD, Mary McAuliffe, welcomed the Taoiseach's apology, but said it had taken "perhaps a bit too long" to get to that point.

Speaking on the same programme, she said the apology had come at the end of a "long process of activism" on the part of the women and their families.

Prof McAuliffe said that she feels apologies are sometimes used by the State to "marginalise or move away from their sense of responsibility" and that an apology should not be seen as an ending.

"It's not drawing a line in the sand or under any particular matter, but the beginning of a process of healing and restorative justice, and I think sometimes that element of the apology gets forgotten, undermined or not fully delivered," she said.

"The apology can only be the beginning of that process."