Tuesday 22 January 2019

HSE continues to 'defend indefensible' over smear test debacle – Dáil told

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
John Downing

John Downing

State agencies just "can’t help themselves" as they engage in "foot-dragging" over cooperation with a probe into the smear test debacle, the Dáil has heard.

Labour TD, Alan Kelly, also accused the Health Minister Simon Harris, of "not being on top of problems" with the investigation now underway. He said the Dáil summer recess must be curtailed to ensure the issue is effectively dealt with.

The former Environment Minister warned that if progress was not made rapidly – an early election could follow.

Fianna Fáil TD, Darragh O’Brien, said the interim report of Dr Gabriel Scally, who is doing a preliminary examination of the smear test scandal, had revealed that it took a full month for him to get the documents he needed.

And when these documents arrived, the relevant information "was buried under a mountain of paper".  

Mr O’Brien repeated his party’s call for a full commission of inquiry immediately which would have real powers to advance a swift investigation.

"It’s time to put the women and their families front and centre in all of this. Some state agencies just can’t help themselves and that’s why they’re dragging their feet," the Dublin Fingal TD said.

Replying for the Government, Education Minister Richard Bruton said the Taoiseach and Health Minister had already made it clear that everyone must cooperate with Dr Scally’s inquiry.

Mr Bruton said that Dr Scally had said nobody had refused cooperation. He also argued that a commission of inquiry would lead to everyone "getting lawyered-up" and this would cause further delays.

The Education Minister said that Dr Scally has already recommended some changes which are being acted upon.

"We have seen these improvements coming just within weeks," Mr Bruton said.

For Labour, Alan Kelly said the head of CervicalCheck, based in Limerick, had told a Dáil committee that all the relevant records were readily available on computer and had been offered. 

But Mr Kelly said the head of the HSE had said it was the first he had heard of this.

Mr Bruton rejected by calls by Mr Kelly that the Government tell Dr Scally to visit the CervicalCheck headquarters. The Minister said Dr Scally had been appointed to conduct an independent inquiry.

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