I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter. I will begin with two dates and one number. The first date is 27 November 1961 and the second is 27 July 2012.
The first date, 27 November 1961, is the date on which most authorities worldwide became aware of the highly dangerous and serious effects of thalidomide on mothers and unborn children. The second date, 27 July 2012, is the date on which survivors of thalidomide began to take matters into their own hands individually by initiating individual actions against the State due to their dissatisfaction with the manner in which their plight has been handled by the State to this point. The figure to which I refer is 32, which is the number of people who are known to the State to be survivors and who are dealing with the effects of thalidomide on their lives. This is an issue with which a number of Governments have grappled unsuccessfully in recent years. A number of decisions were made over the summer on how this issue will be moved forward by the present Administration. I acknowledge my colleague, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, also sought to raise this issue in the House with the Minister. I am aware of the difficulty a government, including our Government, can face in being obliged to respond to a particular claim by any group, as well as of the responsibility it has to the broader society and to dealing with any claim fairly and well. However, in raising this issue, my point is the future health and quality of life of many of those who have been affected in this way is unknown. They do not know what the future will hold for them and many are surprised they have got to this point. It is important for them that within such an environment of uncertainty, they are clear on where the State and the Government stand in respect of their claim and on how we wish to support them in the future.
Second, I am aware that previous Attorneys General have indicated the State does not have legal culpability with regard to what happened. I can understand the reason such a claim could be made in a purely legal manner. However, even were this true - I do not doubt what the Attorneys General have stated - the Government has a wider moral responsibility in respect of the failure of care to these people when the Irish State and Government became aware of the potential impact of this drug on their lives and on what could happen as a result of non-action. I raise this issue because the number of people involved is known to the State and given what happened over the summer, I ask the Government to ascertain whether further action can be taken and whether it can undertake further dialogue with such survivors to ensure they are not obliged to pursue their individual plights with the injuries board. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this issue and I await the Minister of State's response to these points.