"Taoiseach Claims He Didn’t Know about Cervical Check Comments. I told the Government Many Times" - Tóibín
The Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has revealed that he raised comments made by the Clinical Director of Cervical Check, Dr Nóirín Russell, with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Health Minister on many occasions in the Dáil and in writing, over the past number of years.
Deputy Tóibín made the revelation, after the Sunday Times this week reported on 'insensitive' and 'hurtful' comments made by Dr Russell during an hour-long zoom call with Deputy Tóibín, and a member of his staff, in December 2020.
Ms Russell has this week apologised for her remarks, but Tóibín says he is not satisfied with her apology.
Speaking today, Deputy Tóibín said: "I was surprised by the reaction of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and the CEO of the HSE this week in relation to this story. Many high profile figures have expressed their 'surprise' at the comments and moved to criticise them. What frustrates me about this is that they've known about this attitude and these comments for years. I raised the issue with the Taoiseach during Leader's Questions on the floor of the Dáil on 8th December 2020. I relayed to him the comments made at the zoom meeting. At that time the Taoiseach told me he would check it out immediately. Yet this week he has said he was 'surprised' by the remarks, as if it were his first time to hear about it".
Deputy Tóibín continued: "Indeed, myself and my party Aontú have been raising this on many occasions. On 9th December 2020, Dr Russell was before the Health Committee and even though I am not a member of the committee, I still presented to the committee room and raised questions about the comments made at the zoom meeting. That exchange is also recorded on the record of the Oireachtas. In recent days I conducted a search in my emails and I am today releasing the text of a written question and answer between myself and Minister Donnelly, on this very topic, which dates to February 2021".
"In my question, which was submitted to the Minister, I went into detail about what had happened during my zoom meeting with Cervical Check, I quoted from some of the comments, and stressed that they were causing hurt to the families and women effected. I asked the Minister if he could provide clarity on the stance. Stephen Donnelly replied that "the HSE confirmed that Cervical Check is not in opposition to the actions of the Supreme Court or of the Government". And yet we know that they are, or at least were according to the comments made during the zoom call. Minister Donnelly should publicly outline what sort of engagement he had with Cervical Check in the aftermath of my question - did he engage directly with Dr Russell regarding the comments, and if not, why not?"
Tóibín continued: "I am not satisfied with the apology offered by Cervical Check this week, and neither, it seems, is the 221+ group. Aontú is calling on the Clinical Director to reconsider the wording of her apology - and to make herself available to the media for more discussion on this matter. The bottom line is that at that meeting in 2020, Dr Russell in her comments, implied that no 'mistakes' or 'misreading' of Cervical Check slides occurred. She seemed of the view that the entire scandal was about communication of audit results. This isn't true. The women affected, some of whom have become household names in this country, did have their slides misread - it is for this they are getting compensation, and for this they received an apology from the government. Dr Russell needs to come out publicly and answer the question - does she accept that smear tests of women were 'read in a manner which was neglectful', as the courts have ruled as much", concluded Deputy Tóibín.