Private Members' Business. - Hepatitis C Infection: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy O'Donnell on 8 October 1996:
That Dáil Éireann condemns the Minister for Health for his failure to accept political responsibility for the mishandling of the hepatitis C affair by the Blood Transfusion Service Board, and for his failure to ensure the accountability of those whose individual actions gave rise to appalling human suffering and to massive liability on the part of the State.
The following amendment No. 1 was moved by the Minister for Health:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Dáil Éireann commends the Minister for Health for the comprehensive series of measures which he has taken in discharging his responsibilities in dealing with the consequences of the hepatitis C infection and in particular confirms its approval to:
(i) the Scheme of Compensation published by the Minister for Health on 1 December 1995 which will continue indefinitely as an alternative to court proceedings for persons who have contracted hepatitis C from human immunoglobulin anti-D, blood transfusion or other products;
(ii) the proposals set out in the health care document published by the Minister for Health on 1 December 1995 in relation to the long-term health care needs of persons diagnosed positive for hepatitis C which provides statutory guarantees in respect of the future provision of health care services; and
(iii) welcomes the announcement by the Minister for Health of the decisions of the Government to move a motion in both Houses of the Oireachtas establishing a tribunal of inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, as amended, into the hepatitis C infection of blood and blood products manufactured and distributed by the BTSB."
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following;
"(1) condemns the Minister for Health for his failure to accept political responsibility for the mishandling of the hepatitis C affair by the Blood Transfusion Services Board and for his failure to ensure the accountability of those whose individual actions gave rise to appalling human suffering;
(2) calls on the Government to immediately set up a judicial inquiry to investigate all the events surrounding the hepatitis C scandal so that the truth of this affair can be fully and finally established; and
(3) while the judicial inquiry is proceeding, thead hoc hepatitis C compensation scheme be stood down and be re-established at the conclusion of the judicial inquiry as a statutery compensation tribunal.”
—(Deputy Lawlor).

The outbreak of hepatitis C is one of the recurring nightmares experienced from time to time by most people who have anything to do with the practice of medicine. Medicine today is a high technology area but it is also a science which depends more than most on the application of human resources. Therefore, it is also a science subject to human error which can start a chain reaction and result in a tragedy such as this involving hepatitis C.

We can all forgive someone who makes a genuine error provided that upon realising the mistake he or she does everything possible to minimise the consequences. I do not intend to be in any way political and I can fully understand the dilemma in which the Minister finds himself. I have watched the Minister in the House on a number of occasions handle himself admirably in difficult circumstances. However, I have never seen the Minister as angry as on the issue of hepatitis C. The reason is that he realises there is something not right in this case. As I have said before, none of us makes the Minister responsible for what happened in this matter so many years ago. However, he has had his day in the sun in his portfolio and the manner in which he is handling this tragedy is not that of a compassionate Minister for Health, which is what this tragedy deserves.

By his own admission he is at the mercy of the Department of Finance. I have heard the Taoiseach, the Minister and some of their backbench colleagues say that we are making this into a political issue. We were even asked to take the beef tribunal into account. As it was eloquently put in the House last night, this is not about beef but about human beings, their suffering and tragedy. This is not a case in which prudent management demands cost cutting, no more than a parent would take such an attitude when deciding whether a child could have an expensive operation.

I received a letter in December 1995 from the Department of Health when I asked about the tribunal. A line in the letter caught my attention. It described the proposed tribunal as one which would assess compensation on anex gratia basis for the victims of the BTSB's negligence. This is to say, in effect, nobody is to blame but here is a few pounds out of the generosity of our hearts.

The BTSB has now accepted responsibility and Mrs. Brigid McCole was forced, under threat, to accept its estimate of compensation. The judicial tribunal should carefully comment on the letter sent on 20 September 1996 by the BTSB to Mrs. McCole's legal advisers. It admitted liability and apologised but only in the context of a threat that if Mrs. McCole were to proceed with an action for aggravated or exemplary damages and not succeed, it would pursue her for costs.

Is the Minister aware that the making of a lodgment put further pressure on Mrs. McCole? Had her eventual award in court not exceeded the lodgment she would have been compelled by law to pay the legal costs of the BTSB and, as a result, could have ended up with nothing. The purpose of the lodgment was to force a settlement upon her and not to negotiate, yet the Minister attempted to make capital out of having paid her expenses. I put it to the Minister that had she gone to court she would have won her case for aggravated damages with costs.

I will give three cases of women who have died and I will begin with that of Mrs. McCole. I asked the Minister why her case was not heard in the early summer rather than being put back to 8 October. He replied that it was because the BTSB was not ready and that the decision was also based on medical reports. There were three medical reports. One report was from a professor who dealt with Mrs. McCole's case up to a certain point in time and it was equivocal. Mrs. McCole's case was then taken on by a second consultant who had attended Mrs. McCole over a period of years. He had seen her condition deteriorate over the years, it was his opinion that her health had deteriorated seriously and that a liver transplant should have been contemplated.

The third report was from a third consultant. Who commissioned this third report? On what basis was the decision made on this report? This consultant made his report on the basis of a onceoff visit to Mrs. McCole and reference to textbooks. There are no experts in the field of hepatitis C. However, the Minister indicates that the medical report was one of the reasons Mrs. McCole's case was put back. The cases of those who are seeking compensation through the courts have not yet been heard.

Why did the tribunal not ask for a report from Mrs. McCole's general practitioner? It was her GP who asked Mrs. McCole's legal advisers to seek an early court case. Had he been asked he would have told the court that she would not have been fit to stand up in July or August, let alone stand up in court in October. It happens from time to time that the doctor who has been seeing a patient over a lengthy period of time is ignored and the case is dealt with by an expert brought in to do the job on behalf of an organisation.

The second case I bring to the Minister's attention is that of a woman called Susan who has also died. She falls into a category that has not yet been considered by the compensation tribunal. The patients in that category have an underlying pathological condition, require a blood transfusion and as a result developed hepatitis C. Susan had hepatitis C but patients in the category into which she fell will not receive compensation and neither will her family who looked after her through the years.

Limerick East): They will.

I put it to the Minister that there is another category of patients in respect of whom the Blood Transfusion Service Board is negligible, patients with underlying pathological conditions who would have died as a result, but whose death was expedited because they contracted hepatitis C.

(Limerick East): Did they contract hepatitis C from a blood transfusion?

(Limerick East): They are included in the tribunal for compensation.

None of these cases is covered. The Blood Transfusion Service Board accepted liability and apologised for hepatitis C contracted as a result of anti-D, but not for hepatitis C contracted from a blood transfusion or other blood products.

(Limerick East): The compensation tribunal provides for cases as described by the Deputy.

None of the cases of the families of patients in this category — who have all died and did not receive compensation — which are before the compensation tribunal has been heard. These are families of women who have died who have not yet been considered for compensation.

Mrs. McCole is not the first patient to die of hepatitis C. There is another category of patient. Brigid McCole died and she knew she had hepatitis C. Susan died and she also knew she had hepatitis C. Marie falls into another category because she died in 1989 before this condition was recognised and her autopsy report cites that she died from liver failure due to hepatitis non-A, non-B and that she suffered from cirrhosis, chronic active hepatitis, non-A, non-B for ten years. She was brought into hospital and asked all the relevant questions about her alcohol intake and drug abuse. She answered "no" to all of them except to the one which asked if she had ever had blood transfusions. She had received blood transfusions and St. Vincent's Hospital only belatedly accepted that she had a weakly positive hepatitis C. She constitutes another category of patients, those who contracted hepatitis C and died from it, but they are not yet known as a category. There have been biopsies, autopsies have been carried out and it has been stated that patients were hepatitis non-A, non-B. Other women have died from hepatitis C but they did not know they had that condition.

The BTSB admitted liability and apologised to one person who has now died from hepatitis C from infected anti-D. It must also admit liability in the case of other infected blood products.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Shatter, Theresa Ahearn, Frances Fitzgerald, Moynihan-Cronin and the Minister of State, Deputy McManus.

I am sure that is in order and agreed.

I would like to avail of this opportunity to formally express my condolences to the family of the late Bríd McCole. Not alone was she a constituent of mine, she lived in the same parish and we often met in the same shops, churches, at functions and parish events. I know her large family who attended primary and post-primary schools in my parish of Gweedore. It could be said that we are very near neighbours in every sense of the word.

Last Wednesday it was my sad experience to attend the removal of her remains from St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin on their long and arduous journey to Donegal. A number of features greatly impressed me at that removal. I was impressed by the genuine love, sorrow, grief and composure shown by her large family. They had obviously lost a loving mother who always placed them first up to the very end, but they knew and the country now realises that she was a woman and a mother in a million, a unique and brave person.

Another striking feature that afternoon in St. Vincent's Hospital was the large number of hospital staff who turned up to show their respect before the sad cortège left for Donegal.

I wonder how many times during the past number of years Bríd McCole travelled from her home in the remote mountain village of Loughaugher for the necessary treatment and consultations in Dublin. On Monday last I had a long discussion with a good friend of Mrs. McCole in Donegal, another lady who most unfortunately and tragically is afflicted by the same disease. She told me that Bríd often had to be up at 5.30 a.m. to avail of an ambulance in Letterkenny to get her to Dublin in time for her appointment. Often when they arrived in Dublin they had to travel to ten or 12 hospitals before she reached her destination. One can only imagine the intolerable burdens and stresses placed on her deteriorating physical condition by those uncomfortable and demanding trips. During one of those trips my colleague, Deputy Ahearn, some other Members and I met Bríd in this House. We had a meal with her and we realised how ill she was.

My late neighbour Bríd McCole was shabbily treated by the Blood Transfusion Service Board. It maintained a hostile attitude and kept threatening her to the very end. Only by her tragic and premature death did the board eventually accept responsibility and tender a belated apology. That is what Bríd McCole fought for and while her death is a great tragedy for her ailing husband, her family and her aged mother she achieved her reasonable aim and objectives, even in death.

I welcome the Minister's decision to establish the tribunal of inquiry. It must have the powers to investigate every aspect of this terrible tragedy. Responsibility for the suffering of many and the death of Bríd McCole must be placed on those responsible, nothing less will be acceptable.

I wish to avail of this my first public opportunity to extend my deep sympathy to the husband and family of the late Brigid McCole. I also want to extend my sympathy to the members of Positive Action, many of whom were very loyal, caring and dedicated friends of Brigid McCole during the last two years of her illness. The loss to them is also an enormous tragedy.

Unfortunately, it took the death of Brigid to put a human face on this tragedy. As a result of her very sad death at least we have moved out of the realm of talking about statistics and we are now talking about mothers, children, husbands and families who are victims of this great tragedy.

Much has been said about what the late Brigid McCole achieved on her death-bed but her real achievement was during her lifetime. I applaud her for the enormous courage and bravery she showed during those years when she was seriously ill and decided to go to the High Court to discover the truth.

Having met Brigid McCole, I regret she never lived to hear the apology she longed for during her lifetime. She always insisted that compensation was secondary to her. I have always said that compensation was secondary to the members of Positive Action. What they want to know most of all is what happened, why, and who is responsible. Sadly, even if the BTSB now shout their apology from the mountain tops, Brigid will never hear it. Neither did she live to benefit from the compensation, irrelevant though it was to her. These are sad facts we cannot change.

I have always said there has been to much emphasis on compensation, important as it is. The tragedy women have experienced can never be compensated for in monetary terms. Their quality of life and health is affected and the possibility of their life span being shortened can never be compensated for.

I despise the politicising of this issue. In February 1994 and during the following ten months, I am proud that my party in Opposition never once politicised the issue. Our party spokesperson at the time was the current Minister for Justice, Deputy Nora Owen. Her priority was that a proper healthcare system for the victims would be implemented, that counselling and compensation would be available and that there should be an investigation. We did not change tactics because we crossed the floor. We dealt with the human tragedy that must be treated with sincerity and without any hope of political gain.

I regret the issue has been politicised. We all tried to do what we thought was right at the time. There is no point in being experts today because we have the benefit of hindsight. Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn is seeking admission of liability, a public apology and a tribunal of inquiry, which the Minister is offering. She was in Government for ten months when this tragedy was known, in the powerful position of Minister for Justice. Like all of us, she thought that the inquiry by the expert group was the correct step to take at that time. We supported her. It is unfair that our Minister is now criticised because he does not have all the answers she wants. She made her decisions on the available knowledge. If we turn the clock back, things would have been different. It is important now that the correct steps are taken, the truth is discovered and all the relevant information is made available during the tribunal. It is important that those responsible will have to answer.

It is important that in drawing up the terms of reference for the tribunal, it carries out its function as quickly as possible. There have been brave speeches in this House from those who are lawyers. They should ask what is the biggest problem we have in setting up the tribunal? It is attempting to protect the tribunal from being bled by lawyers and to ensure it does not drag on. Whatever compensation there is should be paid to the victims and their families who continue to suffer. I ask the Minister to include an agreement reached in this House that applicants should be entitled to delay their hearing until after the results of the tribunal of inquiry.

I am glad that I played my part in a small way. I negotiated and kept in contact with Positive Action and achieved some flexibility in the tribunal for compensation. I always had tremendous respect and sympathy for all the members of Positive Action, who were sincere in their demand. However, there has been too much emphasis in this debate on what was not provided rather than what was. It is unfair of us not to acknowledge the provisions the Minister for Health did make, even if the Opposition is not satisfied that its provisions were not made.

I conclude by reiterating my sympathy on this sad occasion. I hope the tribunal of inquiry will get to the root of the matter and that the victims will be compensated in full for the suffering and pain they are enduring.

I share the sentiments expressed by my colleagues. I agree that this debate should not serve as a vehicle for what many people outside this House see as a futile and irrelevant party political point scoring. I am weary of that approach to issues in this House. I have no wish to enter that arena and am happy to leave it to others.

In dealing with the consequences of this scandalous tragedy, our central concern must be for the victims of the BTSB's negligence. We must also ensure that no-one in this State is ever contaminated by blood products administered here again. Those in the employment of the State must be accountable for their actions. Real accountability in public administration means stepping outside the fiction that the political head of a Government Department is responsible for decisions made by others to whom responsibility is devolved and whose scientific and medical expertise is relied upon.

Since the announcement was made by the BTSB in February 1994, successive Governments have made a variety of decisions, many of which have been the right ones. Sadly, wrong decisions and mistaken judgments have been made. The present Minister, as previous speakers have mentioned, deserves praise for many of the initiatives taken. He acted quickly to preserve the integrity of the blood supply and established a compensation tribunal that is working well. It offers the possibility of financial compensation to the victims of the BTSB in a far speedier manner than the courts and also provides for the making of provisional awards that give extra protection. The Minister has also made amendments to the health legislation to guarantee the provision of healthcare on an ongoing basis for all the women affected by this appalling debacle. He is also setting up a tribunal of inquiry.

In the light of what we now know, it was a grave mistake to provide for an informal inquiry under Miriam Hederman-O'Brien in circumstances in which the powers which are now vested in a tribunal of inquiry were not vested in her. If in 1994, such a tribunal of inquiry had been established, many questions that today still demand a response would have been answered.

There are other questions we should raise. When members of the public have been seriously wronged or damaged by a State body, who truly represents their interests? When a State legal team oppose a court application for anonymity made by a woman whose life has been destroyed by the negligence of a State body, on the basis of what principle is opposition voiced? What was the public interest in forcing the late Mrs. McCole to be publicly named and identified as having hepatitis C? There cannot be any, other than a hope that forcing her to go public would put her under pressure to discontinue court proceedings or to prematurely settle and by so doing facilitate the BTSB in avoiding an admission of negligence. For God's sake, if Fr. Brendan Smyth or Mr. Marc Dutroux in Belgium were being prosecuted in this State for paedophilia, under our current laws as administered, their names would not have appeared in the media and they would have been granted anonymity. Why should the victims of contaminated blood products marketed by a State agency who have contracted hepatitis C be treated more harshly by our legal system than alleged rapists and child abusers? The lawyers acting for the BTSB should have been instructed to consent to the court's granting anonymity to the victims of their negligence and the State lawyers acting in the proceedings should have co-operated in that. If even with the agreement of the State, there was a difficulty in dealing with matters in that way, legislation should have been introduced to provide such anonymity.

Other questions arise. Where was the public interest in the threat being made by the BTSB to fight Mrs. McCole and others who litigated through the courts all the way to the Supreme Court? Surely, the public interest was in knowing the truth, in knowing whether the BTSB had been negligent and identifying those responsible for such negligence. What was the public interest in making a lodgment into court to wrongfoot her on issues of legal costs before negligence was admitted and in treating her case as some ordinary run-of-the mill legal action between unbending and unreasonably stubborn litigants? Who makes these decisions? Are they simply made by lawyers without instructions or are there some policy objectives behind them?

Why was it that only upon the court making an order for discovery were records suddenly made available that were not originally furnished to Dr. Miriam Hederman-O'Brien? Why was the background investigation of records going back over 25 years not conducted in December 1991 or, alternatively, in February 1994? There was only one of two reasons for that. I believe that the main reason was that the BTSB did not do its homework properly. The decision was made when the compensation tribunal was set up that negligence would not be admitted. Again, there could only be one of two reasons for that. One is that lawyers advised that if an admission of negligence was made those affected might receive a greater sum by way of compensation. If that were the reason a failed attempt to protect public funds took priority over the entitlement of the victims to receive compensation. The alternative reason, which I believe is the correct one, is that the BTSB never told the full story to successive Governments. This Minister and the previous Minister for Health were caught in that trap. We are entitled to know whether information was withheld by the BTSB from successive Governments.

The State the late Mrs. McCole and others are suing and are seeking compensation and help from their State. We should always remember that. It is not supposed to be their enemy. The primary objective of the State is to offer those who live here a sense of community and protection to provide social solidarity. It is the State which promises to cherish everyone equally, to protect the family and recognise each individual's worth and right to bodily integrity. Those whose lives have been threatened and blighted by the distribution by a State agency of contaminated blood products were entitled to be treated better by their State. They are entitled to anonymity if they wish to pursue their claims through the courts. They are entitled to know the truth about what occurred. They are entitled to know who is responsible for this disaster and they were entitled to an earlier apology. They also deserved more from this House than some of the usual caricatured political slapstick in which some, and I emphasise some, Members engaged in this debate and which regularly masquerades as serious discussion. Their future physical and mental wellbeing should be central to all our considerations and they should not be used as political pawns for irrelevant and callous party political point scoring. It is treated with contempt by most of those who are not Members of this House. I hope the tribunal of inquiry announced will establish the truth and in doing so answer all the outstanding questions, including those posed by the bereaved family of the late Mrs. McCole whose death is the responsibility of the BTSB. She should not have had to carry the burden of litigating in our courts to establish the truth in the last months of her life.

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this motion. Like my other colleagues I offer my condolences to the family of Mrs. McCole. I met her and some other members of Positive Action in the House a month ago and it was with great sadness that I learned of her death last week. She was a woman suffering from a terrible illness which weakened her physically, but she was a strong woman determined to get at the truth. What has always been most important to her and Positive Action was getting at the truth of what happened. Brigid and all the women in Positive Action have worked hard to ensure that those infected through anti-D with hepatitis C should receive the support which they and their families deserve from the State.

The questions which Deputy Shatter asked about the legal system must be answered and it is interesting to hear a lawyer asking them. It is appalling that for whatever reason within our legal system Mrs. McCole had to be named at the end of the day because she wanted to remain anonymous. It raises serious questions about the legal system and I hope that they will be asked during the course of the inquiry.

The Minister for Health, in setting up a tribunal of inquiry, has made the right decision. I hope that the terms of reference will be such that we will have the answer to the question of how this contaminated blood was given to women long after hepatitis C was identified as an illness and a test became available. This is a critical question. I hope that we will have a commitment when this inquiry is set up that it will not take an unduly long time and that it does not cost a fortune in fees, although what is really important is that we get the full story of who was responsible for the decisions taken and why no action was taken. While we understand and support the need for the rigorous application of the legal process and rights of representation it is appalling that compensation to Mrs. McCole's family could possibly be eclipsed by the amount of legal fees and I share the public distaste and anger that this could be the case.

I wish that in the current circumstances it would be possible to deal with the issue without recourse to adversarial proceedings, legal or political. It is disingenuous of the Progressive Democrats to come into this House and quote, as they did last night, from an adversarial court system, to use words from the briefs of the legal teams and treat those words as if they were the Minister's. They, as the Progressive Democrats know, are not the words of the Minister. They are taking proceedings from an adversarial court system with which we have great difficulties and which was not suited to helping this woman or dealing with this sort of case.

We also have to look at the situation internationally. When the compensation tribunal was set up I worked with others to ensure that it was more flexible and met the needs that Positive Action identified. There were faults with it and many of them were corrected through discussion. That tribunal is an important mechanism to help the infected women. It is flexible and offers certain advantages over a court system. We should recognise that important steps were taken throughout, through legislation and, particularly, through medical care to meet the needs of the infected women. It is salutary to note that the UK Government this week refused to give any help to people who had been infected with hepatitis C. The 400,000 suffers of hepatitis C in France have not got help from the Government. We must be fair in this debate and acknowledge the progress that has been made in dealing with the issue, but we must also acknowledge clearly that no inqury, tribunal, words or compensation can ever make up for the wrong which these women suffered. It is critical that we have this inquiry and that we find the truth. Women must be able to wait also. I echo what Deputy T. Ahearn said in that they must not have to go before the tribunal before the truth is out. I admire the work of Positive Action. Their journey has not been easy. There are many lessons to be learned from their relationship with the Department of Health and there are lessons to be learned for all Departments as to how they respond when there is a major crisis like this. A new system of response teams needs to be set up when victims are involved and when there is a medical crisis such as this one. I sincerely hope, for the sake of the women involved and the families, that the truth is now within reach. We must learn from what happened.

We may be unable to promise that a similar scandal will not arise again, but we can commit ourselves to facing up to it and setting the highest possible standards in dealing with it. This is a matter for all political parties and public servants, and we can expect the public, particularly women, to demand no less. It is not an issue for political point scoring. It must be treated with the greatest of care. We must ensure the inquiry finds out what happened, why there were delays and why blood continued to be given when, by any standard, it should not have been given.

I congratulate the Government on what was obviously a very difficult decision. The Minister for Health clearly has nothing to hide in the management of the blood transfusion system. It is vital that he helps us get to the bottom of this mystery. There is aways a temptation in cases such as this to make as much political capital as possible, and it is a tragedy that some members of the Opposition have been unable to resist the temptation.

The story of anti-D and hepatitis C is a human tragedy on a massive scale. The political point scoring that has gone on in this debate, aimed at people who were not even Members of this House when the women were infected, makes little or no contribution to a better understanding of what happened, why it happened and how it happened.

Anyone who has ever been a patient in a hospital knows that the phrase "protecting the integrity of the blood supply" has real meaning. Without an adequate supply of blood and the assurance that it is there, many operations would not even be scheduled. Major surgery would not be possible without the willingness of thousands of people to donate blood and the ability of the blood bank to certify with confidence that the blood is safe to use. The first imperative for the Minister has been to protect the integrity of the blood supply. The great danger of such an imperative is that it could ultimately be used to justify a cover-up. That is why the Minister's decision to hold a judicial inquiry is welcome. It proves there is no cover-up, and there will not be a cover-up. As public representatives we are entitled to the truth, but much more so are the women who have been affected and placed at great risk, who cope every day with suffering and may even die. The children and loved ones who have to cope with the illness and anxiety are entitled to the truth.

There have been no heroes in this saga, with one exception, a woman who fought on her death bed to know the truth, whose interest in money was so minimal that she instructed her lawyers to fight for admission rather than for money, who left behind her a monument of personal integrity and courage. Every Member of this House and every member of the wider community owes Mrs. Brigid McCole a debt of gratitude. She fought in pain and weariness against the delaying tactics of the BTSB until it could no longer resist the truth. The greatest monument we can build for Mrs. McCole and her family is the truth behind what happened to her.

This is a human tragedy, but we do not know whether it resulted from wilful conspiracy, human error or criminal stupidity or negligence. We do not know if all the factors involved have been identified with sufficient clarity to be certain it can never happen again. Until we do, nobody — we may need blood at some time in the future — can rest easy. Nobody can say that justice has been done to innocent victims, people who only sought an injection to protect their unborn babies. It is important that the Minister receives the fullest co-operation possible. If he needs additional statutory powers to instruct bodies under his control he will get them from this House. We are entitled to the whole truth. Brigid McCole must not have died in vain.

The front pages of today's newspapers display in clear terms the disgraceful and shabby manner in which the victims of the hepatitis C scandal have been treated by the Government. Alongside headlines showing that £1 billion is available in the Exchequer kitty, there is a poignant photograph of the 12 children of the late Brigid McCole at the High Court. There are no billions, millions or half millions in the headlines associated with her family's story. Her husband and 12 children will receive just £175,000, even though a State agency has accepted that it killed a wife and mother.

While the admission of liability has been made, it is a snide, limited liability. As the documents released by Mrs. McCole's family show, even at the very end the State and the Blood Transfusion Service Board engaged in scurrilous tactics and applied pressure to a woman who through her brave fight challenged their cover-up. The settlement, the very limited liability which has been admitted by the BTSB, the very late apology and the State's detachment from the entire affair, including its refusal to offer condolences in the High Court, typify the way the victims of this State scandal have been treated in the past two years.

The casual observer could have been fooled in recent days into believing that the Government has decided to handle this whole affair in a compassionate and responsible way. Action is being taken only because the Minister has had to go on a damage limitation exercise, but the sad reality is that all that is happening is public relations, not a change of attitude to this matter. The State is no more listening to the victims of this scandal now than it did before Brigid McCole died. The State, the BTSB and the NDAB are still obstructing cases. The Attorney General still fails to file defences to delay cases. As is clear in an upcoming case, early trials are still opposed. Liability is still not conceded without a fight and aggravated damages will not be awarded if the State and the BTSB have their way.

Despite the announcement of a judicial inquiry the cover-up is ongoing. That is evidenced by the fact that 20 separate parliamentary questions in my name to the Minister for Health today have not been answered under a dubious pretext.

(Limerick East): They were ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle.

It is also clear by the limited terms that have been disclosed so far for the judicial inquiry. The first question that must be asked is whether a judicial inquiry would be necessary had the Minister for Health referred all the files and information in his possession to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Minister's failure in this regard is considerable.

An inquiry into just the medical aspects of the hepatitis C scandal will tell only half the story. It will not tell us what the Minister knew when he accepted the resignations in 1995 of executives from the BTSB. It will not tell us who saw the 1976 file showing the diagnosis of infective hepatitis, why that file could not be found and then mysteriously showed up among other papers when a court order was obtained. It will not tell us of who received the duplicates which were made of the documents in the 1976 file — I understand the duplicates have now been found in other files at the BTSB. A limited inquiry will not tell us why the BTSB has lost its insurance cover. My understanding is that that happens only when there has been a fundamental breach of the policy. The BTSB lost its insurance some time ago. What was known by its insurers? Was the Minister or the Department told about it and, if so, when?

The family of the late Brigid McCole have posed questions to the Minister which deserve answers. In particular the Minister must answer why the BTSB was permitted to manufacture anti-D unlawfully and without a licence under the Therapeutic Substances Act, 1932, from 1970 to 1984. That question raises fundamental issues that need to be addressed immediately. Will the Minister explain why retrospective product authorisations were issued in 1994 by the Department of Health? Did the then Minister for Health approve those authorisations and was that done in the knowledge that the product was contaminated over the period for which retrospective authorisations were issued?

A limited inquiry will not tell us what was known in the Department of Health when the expert group report was first commissioned. Who are the people who were not available to the group for interview? What documents were not seen by them? A limited inquiry may not tell us that. It certainly will not tell us if the claim by the Minister, Deputy Noonan, in the Dáil that the Department of Health acted properly is true.

It will not tell us the information the Department's representative on the BTSB took back to his Minister in 1993-94. Neither will it tell us if the relatives of decesed victims who were identified as having got the infected product have been notified. It will not tell us why the Minister told the Dáil on 1 May last that when the clinical diagnosis of hepatitis C was given to his Department and to the expert group, "documentary evidence in this regard was not sought or required".

It seems a remarkable coincidence that routine research showed the anti-D problem at that time in 1993-94 and not earlier. Was there a reason an informal inquiry was chosen by the then Minister for Health? Why has the BTSB suddenly admitted liability now? What was discovered in the BTSB review mentioned by the Minister last week? Who authorised the intransigence which Deputy Shatter spoke of in Mrs. McCole's case? Who else will get an admission of liability now? Will it apply to those forgotten men, women and children who got hepatitis C from blood transfusions? These questions should all be answered, whether by the Minister or by the judicial inquiry. On the basis of his refusal to answer parliamentary questions fully, the Minister is certainly not going to answer these questions.

(Limerick East): I have never so refused.

Here is a Minister whose political skills are legendary. "Michael Noonan", the reports say, "is politically skillful." That means he gets things done, can handle the difficult tasks, and that he will fight you to a standstill for what he believes in. If there ever was an issue that demanded political skills, it was the hepatitis C issue.

Here was a situation where the State effectively poisoned its own citizens, where the State intervened at what is arguably the point of most vulnerability in the life of a woman, when she gives birth to her baby, and at that acutely vulnerable time, in the guise of therapy, delivered death by instalments.

The State was the only source of therapy open to these women and others including haemophiliacs and kidney patients. The State-sponsored, Stateregulated, State-promoted, State-owned Blood Transfusion Service Board was the sole supplier of the product. The professionals taking care of these patients used the product without a moment's hesitation. Generations of trustworthiness backed each container of blood, plasma or anti-D.

This was not a private sector company which might skimp in order to make profits, not that I am suggesting the private sector is rife with companies skimping on detail for that purpose. There was no profit motive. There was a national responsibility devolving upon a top manager and a top doctor within the Blood Transfusion Service Board.

The only supplier did not live up to that national responsibility. The only supplier did not just make one mistake; it failed to meet standards implicit in the most basic housekeeping, over a long period. The only supplier did not justify the trust placed in it by the nation. The only supplier betrayed that trust. The only supplier delivered a potent toxin to shorten and constrain the lives of victims who should have been in their prime.

Many of my colleagues in the House will know the traditional Irish interpretation of the passages of human life: Fiche Bliain ag fas, Fiche Bliain faoi rath. Twenty years a-growing, and Twenty years a-flourishing. There can be no doubt that this Minister knows that simple saying.

There can be no doubt that the Minister knows, too, that an arm of the State, a body under the aegis of his Department, stepped into that sequence and changed it utterly for victims. Instead of 20 years a-flourishing, the State gave these victims an indeterminate sentence. Not even 20 years a-dreading, or 20 years a-withering because of the effects of hepatitis C.

Some of the victims would die in a very few years. Some would survive much longer, but not one of those survivors will have one single day without its physical reminder of their condition, without its clenching cramp of fear.

We know that the Minister learnt about this national disgrace, although precisely when he learned about it, we do not know. This Government of openness, transparency and accountability has not been open on this issue. We do not know when the Minister learnt about it.

(Limerick East): I learnt about it when the Deputy's Government announced it in the Dáil in 1994.

The Minister is always good with one liners but I suggest to him that this is not an occasion for a one liner. This is a matter of life and death, mostly death, so the Minister should keep the one liners.

(Limerick East): I learnt about it when the Deputy's Government announced it in the Dáil in February 1994.

Let us have no further interruption, please.

We do not know what the Minister before him knew about it or how much he knew. How much precisely did Deputy Howlin know when he was in office?

Let us give the current Minister his due. This Minister of great political skill certainly did take action. What action? Did this Minister go public and say that national standards had been broken? Did this Minister go public and admit that the pact between citizens and the health service had been broken by the health service?

Did this Minister admit culpability and force the State agency involved to admit culpability? Did this Minister take swift action against the officers of this agency to ensure that justice was not just done but was seen to be done? Did this Minister reach out to the women the State had poisoned and say "I will not submit you to a process which will waste any of your remaining days or force you to justify what the State pays out to you"? Did this Minister promise the nation, whose trust had been so lethally betrayed, that he would uncover every last detail of the scandal and publish it without fear?

What this Minister actually did was to execute a politically skilful coup. He did a politically skilful deal, a payoff. Individuals were persuaded to remove themselves from their positions of responsibility to retire, into the kindly shadows with a kindly lump sum. It was very skilful and it was very wrong.

It was a deal which prevented the truth from coming out, and which set the Minister and the Department of Health, vested with the healthcare of the nation, on a course of willful conflict with the interests of their citizens. It started them on a course of further victimising the victims, of protecting the system at the expense of the human beings that system is supposed to serve. It was very skilful, and it was a tragedy. For a long time we have watched this Minister play hardball with the lives of women victims.

The Minister has engaged in bare knuckle politics when his handling of this issue has been called into question. He has coined the expression "the blame game" in an attempt to excuse himself from any responsibility. However, the Minister fails to face up to the fact that he is the current Minister for Health. He is the one charged with political responsibility and the one who must take the action. He has to stop passing the buck and accept that he is the first Minister for Health who has all the facts about this affair, and he is the one who has to make a judgment on how the State should respond.

This is where the Minister has fallen down most seriously. He appears to have decided to stand back from the entire issue because he was a defendant in the action. All his focus has been on a compensation tribunal rather than making sure the truth emerged. The first thing the victims of this scandal asked for was the truth and that has been the commodity most denied to them by the Minister Deputy Noonan.

Justice delayed means justice denied. As a consequence, the public interest has not been served in this instance. If it had, the Minister would not have attacked those of us on this side of the House who highlighted that the expert group was not shown all the files relating to the infection of anti-D.

The Minister must also stand accused of withholding information from this House and, with the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, of having misled it on a number of occasions. I will outline those. It is scandalous that even though the hepatitis C affair has been raised on 20 separate occasions in the Dáil, the first time the Minister revealed new information and admitted the expert group report was incomplete was on RTE television last Monday night. This reflects how the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, regard this House.

The Minister has given some of the most extraordinary reasons as to why he did not come clean with the truth before now. He said that he could not establish a judicial inquiry as he could not afford to risk public confidence in the blood supply. Does this mean that he was willing to maintain confidence on a false basis?

(Limerick East): I never said that.

Was he prepared to have people die just to maintain confidence? Or was he willing to allow people to believe that they would not die? That reason does not stand up to scrutiny.

(Limerick East): I never advanced that reason.

It reflects the level of Government panic on this hepatitis C issue. Another dubious claim made in recent days by the Minister relates to why he did not set up a judicial inquiry before now despite demands from the victims and Opposition parties. The Minister claimed he did not want to waste taxpayers' money on a court case and a judicial inquiry and that the court case could have served as the tribunal of inquiry. This is contrary to what he told the Seanad on 20 June when he said there would not be some kind of judicial inquiry when the first case came before the High Court. He stated in the Official Report, volume 148 at column 109: "The purpose of that case is not to have some kind of judicial inquiry; it is to enable a particular person to pursue a claim for damages".

Another fallacy constructed by the Minister which has been the subject of much comment relates to his distancing of the Blood Transfusion Service Board from the State. Why has this divide been created? It did not exist until now. Every time the Minister met the victims of the hepatitis C scandal he indicated he was representing not just himself but also the Blood Transfusion Service Board and the National Drugs Advisory Board.

The Blood Transfusion Service Board was established in 1965 by an Order made under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act, 1961. Under that legislation it is answerable to and regulated and funded by the Government. There would be no such body if the Minister had not made an establishment order. It is specified in section 7 (2) (c) of the Act that if the Blood Transfusion Service Board faces legal action the Minister can take over those proceedings. If he is dissatisfied with the way the Blood Transfusion Service Board is being run he can revoke the establishment order.

The State and the Blood Transfusion Service Board are therefore profoundly and legally linked. It is a nonsense for the Minister to construct a Chinese wall between himself and the Blood Transfusion Service Board for the truth is that if he wanted to acknowledge that the Blood Transfusion Service Board had acted incorrectly he could have accepted the wrongdoing on its part. It was wrong for him to claim in the Dáil last week that he could not direct the Blood Transfusion Service Board. He can, but for political reasons, he wants to build a fictitious divide between himself and the Blood Transfusion Service Board.

Another matter that needs to be addressed is why the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Shea, misled the Dáil about the expert group report. In March, after several court orders were obtained, the blood bank eventually found a file that showed that the Blood Transfusion Service Board knew in 1976 of the diagnosis of infective hepatitis. It was clear from its report that the expert group had not seen this file and I raised the matter in the Dáil. On 28 March the Minister of State said the expert group had the full information and denied that this was new information. The Minister did the same in the Dáil on 1 May and 11 June. The Minister of State maintained this cover up in the Dáil on 12 June.

The first time the Minister acknowledged that information and witnesses were withheld from the expert group was last week. He said that "perhaps the new documents did add" to the information that was known about the hepatitis C scandal. On Monday night on RTE television he confirmed for the first time that the expert group were not given all the information.

Fianna Fáil has decided to amend the Government's amendment because we find the wording reprehensible. The Minister is looking for commendation for the way he has handled this fiasco. Any fair-minded person would have to say that commendation is not due to a person who presided over a campaign of intimidation against a sick, frail Donegal mother. The Minister does not deserve commendation because he refused for two years to listen to the four simple demands of the victims — the demands for truth, an admission of liability, an apology and a statutory tribunal.

Mrs. McCole was a woman of honest values. She neither drank nor smoked. Yet, she died of a condition that normally affects alcoholics and drug addicts. As her family's letter points out, all she ever wanted was the truth and an explanation of what happened. She wanted those who had poisoned her life and who have wrecked the lives of her husband and 12 children to be made accountable in public. For two years the Minister facilitated those who wanted to frustrate the truth. He deserves no commendation from this House.

Fianna Fáil has always sought the truth in this affair. That is the reason we proposed a judicial inquiry some time ago. While we have yet to see what the terms of reference of the tribunal will be, the Government's amendment indicates that its remit may be very narrow, limited only to medical matters. A tribunal looking at the medical issues only will not serve the public interest. It is important that the inquiry looks at how the State handled this issue. This can be done quickly and cheaply as much of the groundwork has already been done for the court cases and by the expert group. It would be a travesty if only part of the truth was to emerge.

While inevitably there is concern about costs, I resent the constant throwaway remarks by the Minister and others on the Government side of the House about a "beef tribunal mark two". The victims are not cattle or sides of beef and the issue is not about export credit insurance. It is about 1,600 lives and more which have been put at risk because of the negligence of a State agency.

The final part of our amendment relates to the scheme of compensation. We have sought from the beginning a statutory compensation tribunal rather than the Minister'sad hoc tribunal. The ad hoc tribunal, in the light of recent revelations, is seriously flawed because under clause 8 no liability is acknowledged.

Even last night the Minister was trumpeting about his compensation scheme. At every opportunity he has pushed people to it rather than to the courts. I have queried before why he is so intent on pushing people along this route and how he could spend millions of pounds advertising it but would not allow any money up to now for a judicial inquiry. In time it may be shown that he has short changed hepatitis C victims. This could happen in particular in cases where final awards have been accepted. The Minister was almost urging people to take final awards when he spoke to the Dáil on 12 December 1995. I understand that 110 of the 140 or so awards are in full and final settlement. My legal advice is that, even with the new revelations, those with final awards may have difficulty if they want to make new claims.

There are also questions to be answered about what the liability from outside the State could be. It is interesting to note that an amendment has been made by the Minister to the scheme of compensation to add the words "within the State" to the section defining those entitled to claim. What was his intention in making this addition? Who is he excluding?

Fianna Fáil believes it is imperative that the scheme of compensation is stood down while the judicial inquiry is proceeding. It is wrong that the chairman of the compensation tribunal is being used by the Government. The goalposts have been moved and there should be no further play until all the facts are established. Further awards should not be made until there is an outcome on the liability issue. While this will inconvenience some it will ensure a swift response and conclusion to the tribunal of inquiry. Depending on what is discovered by the judicial inquiry, the victims should be granted the statutory compensation from the tribunal following the inquiry.

In the programme for Government there was a promise of fair compensation and fair treatment for the hepatitis C victims. It is impossible to reconcile that statement with what has happened in this affair. A Herculean campaign was mounted to make sure Mrs. McCole would not get to the truth. The State co-operated vigorously in the cover up and the Minister will be remembered always as the man who presided over a set of legal teams that tried every trick in the book to frustrate Mrs. McCole's legal action.

Democratic Left and the Labour Party also have questions to answer. One Democratic Left Deputy — I regret it was a female Deputy — accused the victims and their lawyers of manufacturing or, to use her own words, "peddling" fear in the last debate on this issue before the summer recess. That Deputy owes the victims and their lawyers an apology. Labour and Democratic Left Deputies should reject the Government amendment and support the Fianna Fáil one.

Some Members on the Government side of the House hope this is the last they will hear of hepatitis C. Many on the Government side have expressed amazement that the issue has been raised so many times. I am amazed that the issue had to be raised so many times and it should be a matter of shame for Deputies in the Government parties.

I reject and resent the comments made tonight by a number of Deputies opposite that this issue has been used as a political football or has been politicised by Members on this side of the House. The truth of this matter has been brought out and we eventually got what was required from the beginning, a proper tribunal of inquiry, only by constant harassment of the Minister in this House. To give him credit, he admitted last night there was constant harassment from this side of the House——

(Limerick East): Just questions. The Deputy never harassed me.

——during Question Time and private notice questions. The Minister was forced to go kicking and screaming to the Cabinet table last Tuesday——

(Limerick East): I went willingly.

——calling for help from his Cabinet colleagues, because he could no longer face the women in the House and the women victims outside it, asking for a tribunal of inquiry.

This is the 20th time the controversy has been debated in a major way in the Dáil but it will be debated on many more occasions before it ends. There is a simple equation in this controversy to which I have referred many times. This problem will not go away because hepatitis C will not go away.

There are five questions the Minister must refer to the tribunal of inquiry. Why did the Blood Transfusion Service Board use plasma from a patient undergoing therapeutic plasma exchange when it was unsafe to do so? Why did the Blood Transfusion Service Board ignore the ample warnings of jaundice, hepatitis and adverse reactions to anti-D in 1977 and again take no steps when it was informed of the infection of anti-D with hepatitis C on 16 December 1991? Why did the Blood Transfusion Service Board not inform the infected women in 1991, and why did it not report the infection to the Department of Health, as it was obliged by law to do? Why was the Blood Transfusion Service Board permitted to manufacture anti-D unlawfully and without a licence under the Therapeutic Substances Act, 1932 from 1970 to 1984?

In its letter of 20 September 1996 the Blood Transfusion Service Board admitted liability in the McCole case and apologised, but only in the context of a threat that were she to proceed with a case for aggravated exemplary damages and not succeed, it would pursue her for costs. What was the justification for this threat? These are the questions posed by the husband and the 12 children of the late Brigid McCole. In her memory, and to ensure that nobody ever again has to go through what Mrs. McCole went through at the hands of the State — the State is indicted in relation to the McCole case — the Minister must answer these questions and refer them for further answer to the tribunal of inquiry.

I begin by extending my sympathy and that of the Progressive Democrats to the family of the late Brigid McCole. It is a tragedy that this woman died trying to pursue the truth. I believe 1996 will be long remembered as the year in which two women lost their lives pursuing the truth. In June of this year we mourned the loss of Veronica Guerin, a woman apart, whose efforts to find out what went on in the criminal underworld knew no bounds. Veronica Guerin stood up to appalling threats. She would never have taken "no" for an answer.

Eight days ago, another brave woman, Brigid McCole, a 54 year old mother of 12 from Donegal, died trying to find out the truth. All she wanted to know, as her family said yesterday, was the reason she was infected with hepatitis C by this State. In order for her to establish that fact, she had to fight a David and Goliath battle against the State.

I know that neither the Minister nor his predecessor were responsible for contaminating women with blood products that resulted in hepatitis C. This is not a personal issue. This is about a medical scandal and it is also about a political scandal. I want to deal with both aspects of the scandal tonight.

How did the Minister conduct the case against Brigid McCole? First, the woman sought anonymity. I can think of no area of our lives about which we are more private than health matters. The doctor-patient relationship is known to be a confidential one. As Deputy Shatter said, rapists, sex abusers and others are entitled to anonymity. Is it not tragic that the Attorney General took a case to ensure this woman revealed her name? Brigid McCole came from a small rural community in Donegal. She was entitled to anonymity and to have her privacy protected. Last night the Minister went to great pains to say that the reason he set up the compensation tribunal in the way he did was to protect the privacy of the people involved. If the Minister was interested in privacy, the Attorney General, acting on behalf of the Government, would not have sought an application to have this woman's name disclosed.

(Limerick East): Unfortunately it is the constitutional position.

That is not the case.

(Limerick East): I can quote the case law for the Deputy if she wishes.

I did not interrupt the Minister last night.

Deputy Harney, without interruption.

The Minister engaged a team of medical people who said Mrs. McCole would be able to stand trial on 8 October. She is now dead. Her lawyer's application to have an early trial was refused on the basis that the State was not ready. The worst thing the Minister did was to try to use the Statute of Limitations, a trickster's plea when there is no moral defence, to have the case thrown out for technical reasons. That was the most disgraceful aspect of all. The State tried to say that because this woman did not take her action in time, it would have to be dismissed for technical reasons, even though she did not, and could not, have known the reason for her illness until 1994. That brave woman's battle against the State is something for which we should all be grateful. Like Veronica Guerin's death, the death of Brigid McCole has brought about a change in the Government's attitude to this matter.

Last night the Minister chastised my party, and again this evening Fine Gael Deputies said we should not make a political issue of this case. If the infection of 1,600 women with hepatitis C by this State is not a political issue, I do not know what is. This is a parliamentary democracy and my job as an Opposition leader is to ask hard questions and seek the truth.

During November 1994, the Minister's predecessor on occasion accused us of playing politics with the victims of Father Brendan Smyth. This Minister came to office because of a failure on the part of certain people to be accountable. All we seek to do in Opposition is to make the Minister accountable. He is not responsible for the contamination of these women but he is politically responsible for the way in which he has handled matters for the past 22 months. He is responsible also for the way in which the State's case was conducted and he is responsible to this House to answer questions.

The Minister referred to the fact that the Progressive Democrats did not raise this matter on many occasions. Since he came to office, the Minister has answered parliamentary questions on 12 occasions. My party tabled 12 priority questions. One in every three of those priority questions related to this issue and the others related to other scandals like the failure to publish the Kelly Fitzgerald report, the Trudder House issue and many issues of that kind.

Our party spokesperson in this area is Senator Cathy Honan, one of the people who received the anti-D product. Thankfully, she was not infected. She underwent surgery last week, but this morning she called me, furious at what the Minister had said here last night. People in Positive Action know that Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, on behalf of her party, and Senator Cathy Honan on behalf of our party, have acted responsibly throughout on this issue. Indeed, Jane O'Brien is on record as acknowledging that fact.

I want to pay tribute too to Jane O'Brien, because without her and her organisation much of what is now unfolding would never have come out. This is about accountability. That is why the motion is down this evening. Numerous efforts were made by my party and Fianna Fáil to get the Minister to answer questions. Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn referred to the fact, as mentioned in this House, on 20 occasions. Although the Minister said on television on Monday night that he always believed the truth would come out through a judicial inquiry, the manner in which he and his Government behaved makes it clear he never wanted that case to go ahead. In any event, as Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn said this evening, on 20 June he told the Seanad that that case was not a judicial inquiry and never could be.

The Taoiseach, Deputy John Bruton, said in November 1994 that without the truth there is no foundation for good Government and Ministers must not conceal the truth from the Dáil. He said that if questions are not answered the Ceann Comhairle should be given special power to require a Minister to give more answers. That power was never brought into effect. There were 35 questions down today and only three were answered. That is appalling.

(Limerick East): They were ruled out of order.

The Minister says they were ruled out of order. There is nothing stopping him from answering them.

(Limerick East): I did not rule them out of order.

The Taoiseach said yesterday when I asked him if the tribunal would deal with the political as well as the medical aspects that this Government had shown on every occasion where a question of political accountability arose it was willing to take its responsibilities seriously in this House and to answer questions fully and openly. He said that political accountability was not a matter for a judge but for this House. I would like to know why the questions were not answered today. I would also like to know why the Minister dismissed it and said it was not new information when we became aware that in 1976-77 the Blood Transfusion Service Board knew that donor X, whose plasma was used to make the anti-D product, had infective hepatitis. When we raised that in the Dáil on 28 March the Minister said to stop codding the women and read the report. Where in the report can we see that?

I would also like to know why on several occasions in the Dáil the Minister tried to distance himself from the Blood Transfusion Service Board. Why did he take such credit for seeking and securing the resignations of two officers? Why did he do a deal with them? A deal was done and the Minister should not claim he was not responsible. Under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act, 1961, it is a fully owned subsidiary of the Minister and his Department. The Minister appointed all 12 members of the board. A deal was done with two officers and today is the first time we have seen the nature of that deal. It was a very generous deal in relation to one of those officers, indeed in relation to both, because one had not been there very long. We will now have an inquiry, even though a deal has been done with two persons. They were not suspended on full pay pending an inquiry. The deal is done, signed sealed and delivered. We will now find out who was responsible, but will they be made accountable?

Why did the Minister not send all the files relating to this case to the Director of Public Prosecutions? Last Friday morning on "Morning Ireland" Deputy Shatter wondered why the Director of Public Prosecutions had not taken action in this case. In a very unusual step the Director of Public Prosecutions issued a statement that afternoon. He said he had complaints from two citizens but could not investigate the matter because all the relevant facts had not been placed before his office for consideration. Why were the facts not placed before the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration? Would this happen in any other country? We know what happened in France and elsewhere. Why is it that in Ireland nobody is ever held accountable whether they are politicians or officials? If accountability means anything and if an Opposition is doing its job it must ask hard and searching questions. The day the Opposition stops asking questions is the day democracy is dead.

Last night when the Minister was being asked questions across the floor he said he did not have time and wanted to stick to his script. I will sit down after I pose four questions and give him time to answer them. When did the Minister know that the Blood Transfusion Service Board had on its files the fact that donor X in 1976 had been diagnosed at the time as having infective hepatitis? I want to know why the Minister told the Dáil that was not new information. I want to know why the Minister insisted, even last night, that that is in the expert committee's report, and I want him to tell me on what page it is. Finally I want to know why the Minister did not refer all the files in this case to the Director of Public Prosecutions. I will now give the Minister an opportunity to answer those four simple questions.

I may not call the Minister again.

I invite the Minister to answer the question.

The Deputy is sharing her time with the Minister. She is giving him the opportunity.

I may not call the Minister again. A Member may speak.

The Chair need not call him. He can volunteer to answer the questions.

The Deputy knows precisely what I am saying. If Deputy Harney wishes to continue she has some four minutes remaining.

Stand up and answer the questions.

I said in this House in November 1994, quoting Hamlet, that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. There was something very rotten here and it is not all about the medical scandal. That is certainly a scandal.

(Limerick East): There is something very nasty in the Progressive Democrats.

There is something very rotten about the way this matter was handled in the past 22 months.

(Limerick East): Put down the questions and I will answer them.

We put them down today. We are tired of putting down questions.

Eleven were disallowed.

When did the Minister know that the Blood Transfusion Service Board intended to admit liability? When did he know about the files in the Blood Transfusion Service Board which contained the information that donor X had been diagnosed in 1976 as having infective hepatitis?

(Limerick East): I answered those questions already.

Why did the Minister not send all the files to the Director of Public Prosecutions?

(Limerick East): I have answered.

Why did the Minister obstruct and hound that brave woman all the way through the courts? I want to know why, and our job is to find out why.

(Limerick East): Very dramatic.

The Minister said that the women were tired and emotional. I will not accept that

(Limerick East): If the Deputy puts down questions properly she will get an answer.

The Minister refused today.

Let us hear the Deputy without interruption. Her time is almost exhausted.

(Limerick East): The questions were ruled out of order because of this debate tonight.

Tonight we have been accused of playing politics. This is a political controversy that strikes at the very heart of our democracy. The only time people are accused of playing politics in this House is when Ministers or Governments are running away from the facts. An English poet whose name I do not remember referred to "the measured truth that tells the blacker lies". As far as I am concerned, we have had the measured truth. We have not had the facts but a partial U-turn; we will have an inquiry into why the medical contamination took place. Equally I want to know why there has been such political contamination and why the women, particularly that brave woman, were treated so disgracefully by this State and by the agents of this State. The Minister is responsible. He is the person who is charged on behalf of the public with administering our health services. He is the person who should answer questions and this is the place where they should be answered in a parliamentary democracy.

(Limerick East): Any time the Deputy puts them down I will answer them.

Will the Minister answer the 11 that were transferred today?

(Limerick East): The Deputy should sit down. I have never heard him asking a question on this.

On a point of order——

There is no point of order. Please allow Deputy Harney to complete her contribution. She has but one minute.

We will table the questions again this evening. If we get full answers, that will be fantastic and this debate will have been worthwhile. If we do not, if we get the measured truth again, that will speak volumes. If that is the way a Government that promised openness, transparency and accountability will do its business, it is a shame and that life will have been lost in vain. If we cannot get the truth after such a tragedy when will we get it?

As it is now 8.30 p.m. I am obliged to put the following question on the amendment to amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy Máire Geoghegan-Quinn: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand".

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 60.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.

Níl

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hughes, Seáamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies D. Ahern and Callely.
Question declared carried.
Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 1 declared lost.
Amendment No. 1 put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 58.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.

Níl

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies O'Donnell and Keogh.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to".
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 59.

  • Ahearn, Theresa.
  • Barry, Peter.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Bhamjee, Moosajee.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Bhreathnach, Niamh.
  • Bree, Declan.
  • Broughan, Tommy.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connor, John.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McDowell, Derek.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Mulvihill, John.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Dukes, Alan M.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Fitzgerald, Brian.
  • Fitzgerald, Eithne.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis Offaly).
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Penrose, William.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, John.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Upton, Pat.
  • Walsh, Eamon.

Níl

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brennan, Matt.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hughes, Séamus.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Keogh, Helen.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moffatt, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Woods, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies O'Donnell and Keogh.
Question declared carried.