The government has told the 221+ group that the state will be the sole defendant at the CervicalCheck Tribunal and that laboratories will only be joined as third parties.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has confirmed that he wrote again to the 221+ group yesterday evening providing updates on outstanding issues as efforts continue to resolve the impasse so the inquiry can begin its work.

Mr Donnelly said today that the group has now received an letter from the State Claims Agency guaranteeing that the State would be sole defendant as per a recent High Court case, and that labs would be joined as third parties.

He said they were trying to find the best process so women did not have to go through the courts.

The 221+ group is considering the latest correspondence.

It has said that it cannot recommend that its members participate in the inquiry in its current format.

Three main issues have been flagged - the adversarial nature of the hearings, the statute of limitations and the question of whether women could return later to the tribunal if their cancer recurs.

Further upset was caused earlier this week when it emerged that the Tribunal was formally established by Ministerial order and the group had not been informed.

It has now been paused to allow talks to continue.

Mr Donnelly said that he spoke to several members of the group after the news emerged along with the Attorney General.

He said the nine-month period for applications has now begun, however this can be extended.

The Minister also said that there was a need to distinguish between "adversarial" and "non-confrontational" and that when lawyers used the term "adversarial" that meant that entities could defend themselves and questions could be asked.

He said that the 221+ group accepted that negligence must be established in order for payments to be made and that people have a right to defend themselves.