This morning, the Cabinet approved the publication of the progress and interim report of the scoping investigation being conducted by Dr. Scally into the CervicalCheck scandal. We are told that the now final report will be delayed by anything up to six weeks. We are also told in Dr. Scally's progress report that information he requested on a number of State agencies has only been provided in recent days. He also informs us that a significant proportion of these 4,000 documents were provided in a non-searchable format. Great effort was made in printing, scanning and then resending to ensure they would be non-searchable because many of the documents were electronic in their original format. Dr. Scally has said they are unable to read many of the documents.
This is of course highly regrettable, given that it has without a doubt caused the final report to be delayed, and given the time-sensitive nature of this investigation and the need for real and substantive answers for all the women affected and their families. However, even more troubling is the failure on the part of the Government to make good on its promises that the women affected at the heart of this scandal would have access to their own medical records. His comments yesterday that ensuring this is not as easy as taking out a book from the library is shocking. The comments lack empathy and miss the central point. They were described by solicitor Cian O'Carroll, rightly, as smart-alecky. Mr. O'Carroll said the Taoiseach did not address the central issue, which is the fact that records are still being kept from the victims of the CervicalCheck scandal. That is exactly what the Taoiseach did not address.
This is the reality and the Government knows it because we raised it. I raised it with the Tánaiste last month, on 17 May, when I told him of an incident in which the legal representatives of a woman affected by this scandal - and therefore a woman who did not have time on her hands - went down to Limerick on arrangement to collect her medical records and were told they would not be provided to her. The legal representation was told to leave the premises and was escorted off the premises. Nearly a month on, the same thing is happening. Women are still being denied access to their own records, and they need those records.
We all must play a role in rebuilding trust in this screening programme. I have said it before and I will say it again: it has saved lives and will continue to save lives. However, it must enjoy public support and women must have trust in it. Central to this is accountability, and central in turn to that is full disclosure of all the relevant information. The Scally investigation is just one part of this; access to the justice system is another core part. To have such access, access to basic medical information is needed, and that needs to be done with compassion and a sense of duty. I therefore ask the Taoiseach the same question I asked last month: will the Government intervene and ensure that women who are asking for medical records that are held by State agencies will be given them without undue delay? Will the Government call in the head of CervicalCheck to ensure that it gets the message clear that there will be no more stonewalling and no more putting up barriers in the face of these women who are in search of justice?