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Donnelly pauses cervical cancer tribunal

 

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'Mr Donnelly said the Government was in the process of finding two more judges to step into the roles, and had identified replacements.' Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

'Mr Donnelly said the Government was in the process of finding two more judges to step into the roles, and had identified replacements.' Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

'Mr Donnelly said the Government was in the process of finding two more judges to step into the roles, and had identified replacements.' Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The cervical cancer tribunal is paused pending agreement with the 221+ group of patient and families on the means by which it can proceed, the Health Minister has said.

Despite complaints about the delay in delivering justice for victims, Stephen Donnelly has said the three judges can be appointed once the ground rules are set - after two judges left.

"The commitment was given previously that women and families would not have to go through the courts, and so the tribunal was created," Mr Donnelly said.

"Very shortly into my time in office the 221+ groups wrote to me and said the setting up of the tribunal was essential and urgent.

"So that's what we've been focusing on - but we lost two of the three judges. They were each appointed a different job when it was paused because of Covid, one as President of the High Court."

Mr Donnelly said the Government was in the process of finding two more judges to step into the roles, and had identified replacements.

"There was a technical appointment of the judges, and it needs to happen, obviously, that won't be done until everyone is ready for the tribunal to proceed," he said.

There was also work needed to make the tribunal ­Covid-proof, as it was dealing with people with lowered defences.

"The tribunal's facilities are bespoke for the women and families, and they are Covid-proofed, while hearings can be held remotely," he said.

"There are also separate rooms for women who want to attend in person, where they can give evidence and hear the proceedings remotely within these rooms."

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One substantial change was the Supreme Court ruling in the family in the case of the late Ruth Morrissey, which the 221+ group has described as a 'game-changer.'

It found that, whereas previously the smear-test labs and the State / HSE were co-defendants, it would be the State as single defendant in the future with the ability to join the lab, as third parties.


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