FF proposes power of aggravated damages for CervicalCheck tribunal

Party tables Bill amendment about ‘unnecessarily aggressive’ questioning of women

 Under Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly’s amendment, the tribunal dealing with CervicalCheck claims would be able to award aggravated damages. Photograph: Eric Luke

Under Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly’s amendment, the tribunal dealing with CervicalCheck claims would be able to award aggravated damages. Photograph: Eric Luke


Women who feel they have been cross-examined in an “unnecessarily aggressive” way at a new tribunal to deal with CervicalCheck claims should be entitled to aggravated damages, according to amendments tabled to the new legislation by Fianna Fáil.

Minister for Health Simon Harris will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Health on Wednesday to discuss the legislation which will set up the tribunal designed to provide a less adversarial approach to dealing with claims.

TDs on the committee have submitted 20 amendments to the Bill including an amendment from Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly about the way in which women will be questioned at the tribunal, the hearings for which will be held in private unless otherwise requested by the woman.

Under Mr Donnelly’s amendment, the tribunal would be able to award aggravated damages where it determines that a claimant has been cross-examined in an unnecessarily aggressive or adversarial manner by a respondent.

Aggravated damages could also be awarded where a respondent “advanced a defence that it knew or ought reasonably to have known was not justified by the evidence available to that respondent”.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith is also seeking to alter the Bill to state that no hearing would be held in public without the express permission of the woman effected.

HSE board chairman

The Oireachtas committee will also hear on Wednesday from the new chairman of the Health Service Executive board, Ciarán Devane, who is in the first full week of his new role. He will tell committee members that Ireland has “a unique, once-in-a-generation opportunity to build the kind of health service that this country deserves”.

He will say the new board will try to “exploit the momentum for change that has been started in reaching agreement on Sláintecare”.

“We must however, ensure that there are appropriate systems and controls in place to ensure the financial stability and predictability of the HSE.”

The Government decided last October to re-establish a board to oversee the operation and performance of the HSE.

“The establishment of an independent board to oversee the HSE is a really important step in improving the governance of the health service,” Mr Devane is to say.

Mr Devane will point out in his opening statement that his previous experience places him in a “good position to lead the board of the HSE on its transformational journey as set out in Sláintecare, while holding the executive to account for delivering to the plan”.

“The board had its first formal meeting on Friday, but we have got together informally a few times to help us learn as effectively as possible. I am really pleased with the calibre of those the Minister has appointed to the board of the HSE and I know that they, like myself and indeed all those who work in the public health service, have a driving ambition to ensure that we in Ireland have a world-class health system that we can all be proud of.”