Tuesday 17 September 2019

Taoiseach defends government response to cervical cancer screening scandal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has defended the government’s response to the cervical screening scandal.

There has been criticism of how the government has handled the controversy, which is now into its third week.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has claimed the response by Mr Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris has been "one of catch-up", accusing them of "always being one of one step behind the curve from the very beginning of this whole process."

And there have been suggestions that the government should have managed the crisis in the same way as the response to extreme weather events.

Mr Varadkar this morning said: "This issue, unlike perhaps other major national issues is not one that we were able to prepare for because we didn’t know about it in advance.

"Minister Harris and I are finding out the facts in a drip, drip manner, often at the same time as the media and the general public and that’s not a desirable situation to be in.

"If we had known about it in advance we could have prepared for it but we didn’t and now we need to deal with the situation as it is," he said.

The Taoiseach also said: "I just want to assure everyone in the country that we’re acting as quickly as we can to get on top of this issue."

He listed four priorities, the first being to put the care package in place for the women how have been affected.

This includes covering medical costs.

He said: "The second is to get to the facts and the only way we can do that is through the Scally inquiry."

This is the scoping inquiry being carried out by Dr Gabriel Scally who is due to report in June.

Mr Varadkar said the third priority is "to hold people to account" and he added: "the fairest way and the only way we can do that properly really is through due process and the Commission of Inquiry."

He said the fourth priority is to "restore confidence in cancer screening and that’s what we’re trying to do."

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