State ‘shameful’ in its intransigence with Thalidomide sufferers

Jack Chambers says victims should not be blocked from pursuing cases for injuries

Members of the Irish Thalidomide Association arriving at the Four Courts earlier this summer. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times

Victims of Thalidomide should not be blocked from pursuing their cases for injuries in the High Court, the Dáil has heard.

Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers was speaking as he introduced a Bill to end a statute of limitations which prevents Thalidomide sufferers trying to bring their cases for compensation to the courts.

In the late 1950s and the 1960s pregnant women with morning sickness were prescribed the Thalidomide drug but children were being born with severe physical birth defects resulting in a major campaign to secure compensation, which had a time limit imposed for claims.

But Mr Chambers said sufferers “are still emerging as there is a degree of cover-up associated with the existence of records”.


During pregnancy

The Dublin West TD also calls for those affected as a result of their mothers taking the Thalidomide drug during pregnancy should have their injuries deemed a disability.

A number of those affected by the drug were in the Dáil gallery as the Statute of Limitations Amendment Bill was introduced.

Mr Chambers said “the State is being intransigent and difficult with Thalidomide survivors, which is shameful given what happened to these people”.

Minister for Health Simon Harris and his department "have been trying to technically knock out Thalidomide victims and litigants by using these limits in a case management action in the High Court".

The Fianna Fáil TD called on Mr Harris “to end the two-faced tactic of sympathising with victims on the one hand and blocking their progress on the other”.

He said “the Minister has been trying to retain the current obstacle in time limits to restrict survivors of Thalidomide taking High Court action. Given that these victims have never received any remedy or contribution from the State they should at the very least have the right to have their case to be heard before the courts,” he said.

“Amending the Act is therefore hugely important and essential to give Thalidomide victims the opportunity to pursue their cases without being barred by the Statute of Limitations.

“Today’s proposal to introduce an amendment is just one step towards rightful compensation. These victims must now prove their cases in court decades on,” he added.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times