CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan said she feels "betrayed" after claiming Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has formally established the CervicalCheck tribunal despite announcing that it would be paused.
The tribunal was due to start its work on Tuesday but was paused for a number of days following meetings between Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and representatives of the 221+ Group.
It emerged on Tuesday night, however, the order establishing the tribunal had been signed late last week and so the effective start date of the tribunal still began on Tuesday.
In a thread on Twitter late on Tuesday night, Ms Phelan said the CervicalCheck Tribunal was established by statutory order on Tuesday morning "despite an announcement yesterday evening by Minister [Stephen Donnelly] that its establishment would be paused".
Ms Phelan said the Department of Health issued a statement, which stated the tribunal had been paused "for a number of days: to allow the 221+ group to engage with its members.
The Limerick mother, who was given a terminal cervical cancer diagnosis after she was given a false negative smear test result, added: "Yet, at 6pm this evening 18 hours after the tribunal was established, we get a phone call from a [Department of Health] official to inform us that the tribunal that we do not support has been established, and to tell us that the Minister and officials were unable to delay it."
“The order to establish the tribunal had already been signed by the Minister on October 21st last. We made it quite clear last Friday, October 23rd and again on Monday last, October 27th that we wanted it paused.We were promised that would happen,” Ms Phelan wrote. “This promise was broken.”
Ms Phelan and others from the 221+ Patient Support Group – which was set up to support women and families identified arising out of the CervicalCheck scandal – met the Minister last Monday.
Ms Phelan said “the Minister should not have signed the order last week allowing the tribunal to be established”, adding that it is “not fit for purpose”.
She said the Minister knew “as early as last Tuesday” that the 221+ campaign group was “not happy with the format of the tribunal and that we would not support it”. Ms Phelan stated that she and her fellow campaigners “have communicated the issues very clearly and what needs to happen“.
Ms Phelan said the Minister “can decommission the tribunal” but “we will not support the tribunal in its current format”.
“So unless the Minister meets our demands for a just tribunal, he will be left with a dead duck,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, the Government has promised to extend the length of the tribunal to ensure that women still have the full nine months to make a claim.
“Following a meeting with the 221+ Group on Monday, October 26th, the Minister for Health and officials from Department of Health formally pursued the delaying of the establishment of the CervicalCheck tribunal,” a spokeswoman for Mr Donnelly said on Tuesday night.
“However, as the order establishing the tribunal had already been signed and sent for publication on Friday 23rd, this could not be reversed. This means that, technically and formally, the date of October 27th stands as the establishment day under the Act.
“All further actions with regard to establishing the tribunal, including the appointment of the chairperson and members to properly constitute the tribunal, have been paused as agreed. This was communicated to the chairperson-designate of the tribunal on Monday evening.
“As the tribunal was officially established on October 27th, the nine-month period for making claims will run from today. This is the only practical impact of the establishment of the tribunal today. However, the Government will extend the length of the tribunal by additional days to cover this period if necessary.”
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly described the development as "unacceptable".