TWO solicitors' firms continue to earn the major share of the legal fees paid out by the tribunal compensating victims of blood contamination, it emerged yesterday.
Malcomson Law received around €7m and Ivor Fitzpatrick and Co got in the region of €2m in 2009, according to the annual report of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal.
The report revealed that €13m was paid out in legal fees over the course of the year, bringing the overall legal bill to €125m since the tribunal started in 1996.
The tribunal paid 171 victims of hepatitis C- and HIV-contaminated blood €33m in compensation in the course of the year, with individual awards ranging from €6,350 to €1.8m.
So far, €593m has been paid in awards, with another €81m as a result of High Court appeals with a further €132m collected in reparation funds.
Those entitled to claim include those who received contaminated blood or blood products issued by the Blood Transfusion Service in the past.
The most recent figures show the death toll among 1,700 people known to have received blood or blood products contaminated with hepatitis C has risen to 188.
The majority of those infected were women who received the Anti-D product in the late 1970s and early 1990s to prevent them having blue babies.
Other groups infected included people with haemophilia who received contaminated blood-clotting products and also patients, such as those with kidney disease, who received transfusions before a test for the virus became available.
Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver disease and up to 20pc of people with the infection will develop cirrhosis.
However, very effective treatment is now available which eradicates the virus in more than 50pc of cases, according to the report of the National Hepatitis C Database, which has tracked the progress of 1,303 of the people infected.
It found that cirrhosis had developed in 14pc of those who have chronic infection.
Detta Warnock of Positive Action, the organisation representing women infected with Anti-D, said although it came to light in the 1990s some were only finding out now that they were infected.
"There were three ladies who only came forward last year. They had been living in the UK and only found out they had been infected with contaminated Anti-D," she said.