Minister for Health Simon Harris TD today (Wednesday) announced the Government has agreed to establish an independent statutory tribunal to deal with claims arising from CervicalCheck.
The Minister secured Government approval to prepare legislative proposals as a matter of priority, but the Government acknowledged this will take time to establish.
The Cabinet approved the appointment of Ms Justice Mary Irvine as Chair of the Tribunal. Ms Justice Irvine will begin preparatory work as soon as possible ahead of the establishment of the tribunal later in 2019.
The Minister also confirmed he is to examine the early establishment of a non-statutory scheme to provide ex-gratia payments for the women affected by the non-disclosure of the audit.
The Tribunal will be established based on the recommendations set out by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in his recent report on an alternative system for dealing with cases arising from CervicalCheck.
Hearings will be held in private and will be less adversarial than the current court process due to the adoption of pre-hearing protocols and case management procedures.
Once established, cases will be dealt with in a timely manner. The Tribunal will differ from the current court process in that it will be voluntary for all parties.
Minister Harris emphasised that establishing a Tribunal does not, in any way, restrict the right of women or their families to give evidence in public in the High Court, if that is their wish.
Minister Harris said: “The Tribunal will allow women to progress their cases in a timely and sensitive, less adversarial manner, while equally respecting the constitutional entitlement of all parties to a fair hearing.
“I want to thank Ms Justice Irvine for taking on this role. I look forward to engaging with her in the new year and progressing with this work as soon as possible.
“This will take time to establish but all arms of Government are working to progress as a matter of urgency. I will also consider the establishment of an ex-gratia compensatory scheme to deal with any accepted non-disclosure to the 221 women and their families and I hope to progress this in the new year.”