Inquiry on pharmaceutical firms likely

 

The Government is likely to launch an inquiry into the actions of US-based multinational pharmaceutical companies whose products were implicated in the infection of haemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitis C.

This was revealed by the Minister for Health and Children, Mr Martin, last night at the conclusion of the debate on the Lindsay tribunal report. He said that he had already been advised by Mr Paul Gardiner SC on the issue, "and, subject to further discussion with the Attorney General, I reiterate my belief that it would be possible to mount a useful investigation which would allow access to publicly available material and to persons and bodies willing to co-operate."

Mr Martin said he was consulting with the Attorney General and other parties, including the Irish Haemophilia Society, on an effective template, following which he would return to the Government and the Dáil with his proposals.He added that, as promised, he had sent the report to the DPP last Friday.

The personal testimonies of victims who gave evidence to the tribunal would be published as a memorial to their bravery and courage, he said. He also intended providing an additional €300,000 to the Irish Haemophilia Society next year to enhance its services. He further announced the reduction of the price of copies of the Lindsay report to the nominal charge of €1.

During yesterday's debate, there was an emotional outburst from a member of the Irish Haemophilia Society sitting in the public gallery. However, he was calmed down by members of the Leinster House staff and listened to the rest of the debate in silence.

His outburst had followed a contribution from Mr Michael Ring (FG, Mayo) who spoke of his personal experience of the scandal at a constituency clinic.

"A lady came into my clinic who had received contaminated blood products and for the first time in my life in politics, I cried. She had gone through the health system. She met all the medical professionals involved and at the end of the day they tried to imply that she was not keeping well in the head.

"This poor woman received contaminated blood and when she did the hepatitis C test, the disease did not show up. She is upset, as is her family. She displays all the symptoms of the disease and is in bad health, as she has gone from one illness to the next."

Several deputies criticised the Lindsay report. Ms Fiona O'Malley (PD, Dún Laoghaire) said the failure of Judge Lindsay to apportion blame or responsibility was highly disappointing, and, indeed, distressing for those who had borne their pain, anguish and suffering in such a dignified manner, frequently under such hostile cross-examination at the tribunal.

Dr Mary Upton (Labour, Dublin South Central) said that the softness of the report's language defied credibility. "The report does not remotely attribute a reasonable level of responsibility or accountability. The terms used are frequently woolly and meaningless and warrant a degree of scepticism."

The report, she added, was "hardly the language of a robust tribunal attempting to establish straightforward facts when it was clear that 79 people died and may more continue to suffer.

"It is in stark contrast to the language used in the Flood interim report of that tribunal."

Mr John Gormley (Green Party, Dublin South East) said it was regrettable that the report pulled its punches.

"The public will no longer tolerate this type of wishy-washy report, which allows people to make excuses and effectively exonerates them from wrongdoing.

"The beef tribunal report was an example of this equivocal attitude. The Irish Haemophilia Society was entitled to ask the reason a judge from the Circuit Court was appointed to such an onerous and sensitive tribunal."