Talks failed | 

Brave campaigner Vicky Phelan slams 'inexcusable delays' in setting up CervicalCheck Tribunal

Vicky Phelan

Campaigner Vicky Phelan has slammed the 'inexcusable delays" in setting up the CervicalCheck Tribunal and has said her advocacy group will be withdrawing from talks.

Ms Phelan told Newstalk today that said her group, 221+, now see "no point" in engaging with the tribunal and that it will be "as adversarial" as going to the High Court.

The tribunal was established with the aim of allowing cancer sufferers to have their cases dealt with without the trauma of appearing in court.

However, there have been repeated delays and, on Friday, 221+ said they would not be engaging with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly's department about the terms of the tribunal.

Speaking to On The Record with Gavan Reilly, Ms Phelan said they requested to meet with Minister Stephen Donnelly within two days of his appointment.

"It took almost two months to get a meeting at this stage.

"Obviously we understand we're in the middle of a COVID pandemic, but at the same time - given the tribunal was ready to be established at that stage - we thought it was important to meet him."

However, Ms Phelan said her group have serious concerns about aspects of the tribunal - despite having talked to the Minister.

"If the tribunal had been established when it was supposed to be established, we wouldn't be having these issues or these arguments.

"The problem is that the landscape has changed fundamentally since the tribunal was conceived back in June 2019.

"So the [Ruth] Morrissey case and the Supreme Court appeal on that in March 2020, and the subsequent [Patricia] Carrick case which settled in September, have set a new baseline for the tribunal.

"Then the inexcusable delays of more than two years in establishing the tribunal have meant that many of our members are at very least at serious risk of having [their cases] thrown out of the High Court or tribunal due to statue of limitation issues."

Ms Phelan said her group believe there will be "no advantage" for many women in taking a case to the tribunal over the court.

She claimed that it may be quicker for some women or their families as the courts are prioritising dealing with the cases of terminally ill women.

She said: "We've had to argue for every little point we're trying to get.

"In fairness to the Minister... he did come back with a letter from the States Claim Agency confirming that if a woman is to take a case before the tribunal that they will not join the lab as defendants, they will only join them as third parties. That is one win we did get."

Ultimately, she said the tribunal will be held 'in private and in a nicer room' - but that for most women it will not be a real alternative to going through the courts.

She suggested: "There's no point in continuing talks further, as far as we're concerned.

"This is about getting justice for women, and providing a tribunal that offers an alternative to the High Court - which this does not.

"We will have a number of members who will take a case at the tribunal - that is absolutely fine. We will support our members whatever they do."

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