Women to be offered redress over delayed cancer diagnosis - Taoiseach

Varadkar asks for time to deal with CervicalCheck fallout as ‘we want to do the right thing’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that women whose cancer diagnosis was delayed will be offered redress.

He made the comment in the Dáil on Wendesday in response to questions from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin about the CervicalCheck controversy.

Mr Varadkar appealed for calm and space for the Government to make the right decision and do right by the women involved. If it is uncovered that women should have received earlier intervention, there will be compensation offered, he said.

Following a High Court case taken by Limerick woman Vicky Phelan (43), who is terminally ill with cervical cancer, it has emerged in the last week that 208 women with the disease whose cases were audited should have had an earlier intervention.


The Dáil heard last night that more than about 1,500 other women who developed cervical cancer did not have their cases reviewed by CervicalCheck.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Tuesday that he had ordered that audits be carried out where practical into these cases - leaving open the possibility that reviewers will come to the conclusion that some of these women should also have had an earlier intervention.

Mr Martin said the news that more than 1,500 women could be affected was a "shocking and out of the blue revelation" and it "confirms that the response to the crisis by HSE and Minister has not been comprehensive or competent".

Deep concern

Mr Varadkar said the Government was deeply concerned.

“We do not know all the facts. And the Minister was only informed minutes before he came into the House and he was put in to the unenviable position,” of having to deal with the fact that 1,500 women were affected.

“I would ask for time and space to deal with this. Whatever we do, we want to do the right thing.”

Mr Varadkar said the director of CervicalCheck is no longer in charge of cancer screening programme and that a team of international experts will look at the cases of the women who received smears in the past 10 years.

He also said “we’re going to bring in more accurate smear tests and will be among the first in the world to do so”. It would be logistically difficult and expensive but it would be done, he said.

The Taoiseach also pledged a statutory inquiry into the matter. “There are difficulties with both a Hiqa inquiry and a commission of inquiry,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said senior health official Damian McCallion had been instructed to take over CervicalCheck.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times