Sunday 22 April 2018

UN Human Rights Committee told of symphysiotomy patients 'wide awake and screaming'

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has spoken to the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva about the 'dreadful situation' faced by symphysiotomy survivors in Ireland.

The minister defended the Government's redress scheme to the committee, which has been rejected by the Survivors of Symphysiotomy Group.

Ms Fitzgerald gave direct testimony to the committee along with a delegation of Irish Civil Society Groups.

Chairman of the survivors' group, Marie O'Connor, also spoke to the committee and said the survivors' human rights had been breached as the procedures were carried out without their consent.

"Women were operated upon wide awake and often screaming: those who resisted were physically restrained," Ms O'Connor said.

"Ireland was the only country in the world to do these childbirth operations in preference to Caesarean section. Religious ideology and medical ambition drove the surgery," she said.

"The State claims it was not liable but these operations were carried out by State employees, and done in private hospitals providing services on behalf of the State, under its supervision," she added.

Justice Minister Fitzgerald also spoke of the Magadelene Laundries and women’s reproductive rights, including abortion, in Ireland.

She told the committee that the Irish Government have accepted the 2013 McAleese Report into the Magdalene Laundries and have put in place a benefits scheme for the women who worked in the Magdalene Laundries.

Ms Fitzgerald addressed abortion, saying there had been 'significant recent developments in relation to access to lawful termination of pregnancy in Ireland'.

"The purpose of the new legislation is to confer procedural rights on a woman who believes she has a life-threatening condition, so that she can have certainty as to whether she requires this treatment or not," she said.

The United Nations had gathered to examine Ireland’s human rights record before the UN  Human Rights Committee in Geneva this afternoon.

Over the course of the two day conference, the minister will be questioned on issues such as the conditions of Irish prisons, the Magdalene Laundries, symphysiotomy, women’s reproductive rights including abortion and Traveller ethnicity. Talks began today at 3pm.

It is Ireland’s fourth hearing before the Human Rights Committee. Talks will reconvene tomorrow at 10am.

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