John Stack is 60 today. That makes the suckler farmer from Tarbert in Co Kerry the youngest thalidomide survivor in the country.

John is one of a group of 40 thalidomide survivors in Ireland.

The others are older than him. Their number is, sadly, shrinking.

Thalidomide is a drug which was prescribed to pregnant women in the late 1950 and early 1960s to treat morning sickness.

It was withdrawn internationally in 1961, after it was found to cause major birth defects.

Babies were born with shortened or no limbs. Thalidomide also damaged nerves, organs, hearing and eyesight.

In Ireland, the situation was worse: withdrawal here didn't happen until 1962, nine months after the international withdrawal of the drug.

John Stack's mother took Thalidomide after its international withdrawal, unaware at the time of the very serious consequences it would have.

John Stack at work on his farm in Tarbert

For decades, Thalidomide survivors and their families here have campaigned for what they describe as a fair and equitable compensation package, and for measures to ensure their medical and social care is looked after.

They also want a State apology.

There has been some progress.

The Government does provide some financial assistance and ex-gratia payments to survivors. They are also eligible for medical cards.

But there's been no apology.

The survivors are moving into old age now. They're fighting for a long time and they say they're getting tired.

John Stack, at 60, is the youngest of them.

His is the longtime chairperson of the Irish Thalidomide Association, which has been at the forefront of the survivors' campaign.

"We are tired of fighting," John Stack told RTÉ News. "We are looking for a compensation package and we are looking for a full and final settlement, because we are fed up of this process after 60 years."

Late last year, in his final months as Taoiseach, Micheál Martin met the survivors' representatives twice.

Both sides described those meetings as constructive.

The Government is anxious to establish a non-adversarial mediation process so that both sides can begin to work through the issues involved under an independent chairperson.

Thalidomide survivors campaigning at the Dáil

The Irish Thalidomide Association suggested a chairperson for the mediation and the Government agreed.

The Government had hoped the process would be up and running by Christmas but that hasn't happened, even though both sides express their enthusiasm for the process.

There is a lot of goodwill on both sides too.

However, there is disagreement on the extent of the process and what it will encompass.

The situation isn't straightforward.

Since 1975, the Government has provided some financial assistance to each Irish thalidomide survivor. This includes an ex-gratia lump sum and an ex-gratia monthly allowance for life.

Twenty-nine of the Irish survivors receive monthly payments totalling between €6,175 and €13,313 annually from the Department of Health.

The Contergan Foundation

In addition, Irish survivors are also eligible for monthly payments and a range of annual payments from the Contergan Foundation. This foundation was established under German law to compensate thalidomide survivors, as part of the settlement of a court case taken against the German drug company which manufactured thalidomide.

The Contergan Foundation assesses the amount which each Irish survivor is paid. It then subtracts any other payments made to those survivors by the Irish Government.

Therefore, as things stand, any additional payments made by the Government here to survivors will not increase the total compensation paid to them.

This is currently being challenged by the Irish Thalidomide Association in the German courts.

In the Dáil on 5 October last, Micheál Martin said the Government wanted to make "absolutely sure" that any contributions given by the State were not being subtracted by the Contergan Foundation. He added that this was "important and can't be dismissed".

Both the Government and the Irish Thalidomide Association remain hopeful that the obstacles impeding the establishment of a mediation process can be overcome in the coming weeks.

The Government believes progress can be made through such a process of mediation.

In the meantime, John Stack and the other thalidomide survivors are still waiting.

But time isn't on their side.

John Stack will celebrate his 60th birthday tonight with a card game with his family and friends in Tarbert.

He says he hopes both a State apology and an adequate compensation package will have been delivered by the time his next birthday comes around.