The 221+ have written to Stephen Donnelly this evening to end discussions on the tribunal and to express their “utter frustration at the pointless waste of time that has been the past three weeks”.
Campaigners, including Vicky Phelan, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh had all expressed concerns around a number of elements of the tribunal and had called for it to be non-adversarial.
“We didn’t just point out the problems, we also proposed solutions. We acknowledge that some of those solutions were not possible at the stroke of a pen but they are entirely possible if those in Government had the will to act with the interests and needs of this group of victims at heart. They clearly don’t.
“We see no point in continuing this process. This Government had the opportunity to oversee a solution for these women that is better than the long fight through the courts.
“It chose otherwise and that will be its legacy when the debacle of the past could now be consigned to the archives,” the group said.
deaf ears. As always we will continue so stand beside and support all of the women and families in this process regardless of whatever path they decide to travel to get to the truth of what happened to them in the #CervicalCheckDebacle ❤(2/2) @irishexaminer @MichealMartinTD
— ??????? ???? (@Stephenteap) November 20, 2020
The 221+ group says Mr Donnelly told them in a letter sent on Thursday night that it has not been possible to meet the requested adjustments in the working of the Tribunal in respect of the Statute of Limitations or the issue of Recurrence.
“That letter sadly confirms what we have believed to be the case for some time now, notwithstanding varied statements over recent weeks from the Minister that his focus was ‘about finding the best route for the women and families’ and the statement of the Taoiseach in the Dáil on only Tuesday this week in respect of the Statute of Limitations where he said ‘we do not believe that will be that significant an issue, we think we can deal with it’,” the 221+ group said.
The group said it will continue to support all of the women involved in the smear test scandal “irrespective of the legal choices they make, or none”.
All of the 221+ women and their families have been given the full archive of all the exchanges with the Department of Health and have advised them to share it with their legal counsel in order to help their own decision making.
The Department of Health has released a statement this evening saying the health minister’s priority was to “facilitate the least onerous process for the women and families affected”.
The statement which was issued to RTÉ News said: “The Tribunal is a more compassionate alternative to legal proceedings in the High Court, based on recommendations set out by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in his 2018 report on an alternative system for dealing with cases.
“It offers a better route for women and families to progress their legal actions in a private and less confrontational setting than the High Court.
“It confers the same rights as the High Court and allows for more timely access, as well as a more sensitive environment.
“A number of women and families have tried to lodge claims at the Tribunal in recent weeks but were unable to do so as the Tribunal is currently paused.”