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Human rights leader attacks 'lack of respect and dignity' for victims


Emily Logan, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commissioner. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Emily Logan, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commissioner. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Emily Logan, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commissioner. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Human Rights Commissioner Emily Logan hit out at the lack of respect and dignity shown to Vicky Phelan and the other women affected by the cervical cancer screening scandal.

Ms Logan received a standing ovation at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) when she warned that respect for human rights needed to be a cornerstone of the provision of modern healthcare.

She also declared that the women involved in the cervical screening controversy had been treated "very badly".

The commissioner also said her office would now offer whatever information or advice was possible to women affected by the cervical testing controversy - though she stressed that the HRC was only one of several agencies that affected women could deal with.

"Human rights is essentially about respect and dignity. The lack of dignity and respect that was shown for not only Vicky Phelan but all the women involved is quite clear," she said.

"In terms of what should happen next, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has communicated in the past some key principles for any kind of inquiry or commission of inquiry.

"One is the independence of any investigation and the second is its powers to compel. It is really important that documentation can be extracted or compelled and that the HSE can be compelled to give that information.

"The third thing is that the individuals themselves are allowed to give individual testimony. I know that Vicky Phelan herself said there should be some kind of opportunity to do that publicly.

"That is very consistent in terms of international standards of inquiry to allow witnesses both to give that witness statement either private or publicly."

Ms Logan continued: "The fifth key principle is about redress.

"I know the Taoiseach said it is too early to consider redress and that they have an open mind on it.

"But obviously it would be down the line and we have seen a number of schemes in Ireland that have not treated women well.

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"The most recent one would be the scheme for women with symphysiotomy.

"Those women were asked to set aside their constitutional rights to redress and not pursue their cases in the court.

"It is really important that whatever redress scheme is set up is human rights and equality-compliant and respectful of the women who have been treated so badly in this case."

She warned that Ireland must learn the lessons from past mistakes. "I think we have a long-standing history of placing institutional interest or institutional loyalty ahead of the interest of individuals," she said.

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