Over €2.5m spent on setting up CervicalCheck tribunal — and just three claims lodged

25 April 2021

More than €1.6m was spent in fitting out the new tribunal offices which are being rented at a cost of more than €415,000 per year when service charges are taken into account.

A further €246,587 was spent on the set-up and operation of the tribunal which began its work last December, this included €140,076 on furniture and fittings, €13,438 on cleaning and €9,346 on printing.

But the tribunal, which was established despite significant concerns raised by the 221+ support group, had only received three claims by Monday of this week.

Women impacted by the CervicalCheck scandal and their families have been given nine months to lodge a claim. Five months in, no claims have yet reached a hearing.

“Obviously, it’s not working, there’s something wrong here. So, if it’s not working, then there is an obligation on the minister to fix it. Is it the case that we just stumble along month to month and wait until the nine months are over and then we write it off as a failure or does the minister intervene?”, asked Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane.

Mr Cullinane said women and their families are “taking their chances” with High Court actions, instead of going to the Tribunal.

Information provided by Mr Donnelly also shows that 207 claims had been received by the State Claims Agency from women by mid-March regarding the alleged misreading of their smear tests and a further 49 claims had been received from family members.

Of the 256 claims, proceedings have been issued in respect of 190. To date, 31 claims have been concluded.

Mr Cullinane said: “It’s obviously up to the women themselves to make decisions as to whether or not they go the route of the High Courts or they engage with the tribunal, but the context here is that the tribunal was set up with very real concerns expressed and it went against the wishes of the very campaign that represents as 220-plus impacted.”

Calling for an urgent review and direct engagement by the minister with the 221+ group, Mr Cullinane said: “It’s not being used because the minister didn’t listen to the concerns of 221+ group.”

Mr Donnelly confirmed that he has not been in contact with the CervicalCheck representative group since last November when he wrote to them to tell them that he would be pressing ahead with the tribunal despite their repeated opposition.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín also called for a review of the tribunal.

“It is disappointing to see the way Minister Donnelly handled this tribunal and how he broke promises he made to the 221+ group.

“Despite promises to the contrary, this Government is still forcing women through the courts, fighting them, in the case of Ruth Morrissey, all the way to the Supreme Court and then settling with them only when they are days from death. This is a scandal,” he said.

In response to multiple parliamentary questions, Mr Donnelly said office space in the Infinity Building in Dublin’s Smithfield had been fitted out to “meet the tribunal’s requirements”.

“The amount expended on the fit out for the Tribunal by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to date is €1,627,645. This includes construction fit-out costs, consultants fees, vat and percent for art allowance,” he said.

Mr Donnelly also confirmed that retired Court of Appeal Judge, Mr Justice McGovern, who is one of two ordinary tribunal members, “is paid at the rate of remuneration currently applicable to a judge of that Court,” which currently is €202,329.

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