Symphysiotomy court decision ‘may take 10 years’

Taoiseach ‘cannot patronise these women’, Adams warns

Gerry Adams: “Why does the State deny or refuse to accept responsibility for the clear abuse of these women over decades?” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Gerry Adams: “Why does the State deny or refuse to accept responsibility for the clear abuse of these women over decades?” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

Symphysiotomy sufferers could wait for between five and 10 years for a decision on their case if they decided to go to court, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil.

He described the Government’s €34 million ex-gratia scheme for survivors as a “recognition of the difficulties, challenges and trauma these women went through”.

He told Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams that “nobody wants to see long drawn-out controversial, antagonistic or aggressive court hearings about something like this”.

But Mr Adams said the Taoiseach “cannot patronise these women and say he does not want to put them through a long court procedure, if this is what they want to do”.

Ignored call

Reiterating the questions asked by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva about the scheme and its compatibility with the State’s obligations under international treaties, Mr Adams asked why the Taoiseach ignored the call from survivors for the statute of limitations to be lifted.

He said the women were told they could have the redress scheme but they had to give up their legal rights. The vast majority of women did not want the redress scheme. Instead “they want acknowledgment of their ill-treatment and proper compensation commensurate with the trauma they have suffered”.

More than 1,500 women had a symphysiotomy between the 1920s and 1980s. It involved breaking the pelvic bone during childbirth and for many it left permanent psychological and physical injuries including chronic pain, incontinence and difficulty walking.

Mr Adams said the UN committee had asked, and he was repeating, the question: “Why does the State deny or refuse to accept responsibility for the clear abuse of these women over decades?”

Mr Kenny said that if the women were not happy with the redress scheme they had every right to appeal it and to take it to court if they wished.

But he said that in many cases there were no notes available and it was not known which doctor performed the intervention. “The women could wait for a long period, of five to 10 years, before getting a court decision.”