Thursday 19 July 2018

Head of inquiry into cancer smear scandal hires spin doctors - at taxpayers' expense

Inquiry chief Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Mark Condren
Inquiry chief Dr Gabriel Scally. Photo: Mark Condren
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

THE head of the inquiry into the CervicalCheck scandal has hired a firm of private spin doctors - paid for by the taxpayer.

Dr Gabriel Scally, whose inquiry has come under criticism for being too slow, is now issuing statements through the public relations firm Q4PR.

The use of a private firm by a State inquiry is believed to be unprecedented.

The Department of Health, which is paying the company's fees, yesterday refused to say how much it is costing.

A spokesman said the Scally inquiry is independent and "given that independence, the arrangements required in order to complete the review are a matter for Dr Scally and his team. The department has no role in them".

The firm said yesterday that Dr Scally (pictured right) and his team were using the private public relations advisers on an "as and when needed" basis to provide "communication support" due to a high level of media queries.

"The communications services provided, and all other professional services related to the inquiry, are being paid for by the inquiry team, which is being funded via the Department of Health to conduct its work."

The spokeswoman refused to say how much it is being paid.

The inquiry said yesterday that it is now getting access to documentation from the HSE "in a searchable format and with all redactions, apart from those relating to patient confidentiality, removed".

Dr Scally was due to present his scoping report at the end of June but this will now not be ready until the end of August.

There is growing impatience at the failure to provide answers to the 221 women and bereaved families who were victims of wrong smear tests. A spokesman for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the hiring of spin doctors was a matter for the Department of Health.

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