Death of Ruth Morrissey: Expressions of Sympathy

I call the Taoiseach to make a short statement in regard to the late Ruth Morrissey, following which I will call on Members to rise for a minute's silence to commemorate the life of Ms Morrissey.

Ar dtús báire, déanaim comhbhrón le teaghlach Ruth Ní Mhuirgheasa, lena fear céile, Pól, agus lena hiníon, Libby. Is olc an scéal é ar fad. Rinne Ruth éacht oibre ar son mhná na hÉireann faoi láthair agus don todhchaí. Ar son an Stáit, cuirim m'fhíorbhrón in iúl as ucht an fhaillí a bhí i gceist leis an gclár scágthástála ceirbheacs. Gabhaim leithscéal ar son an Stáit. I gcónaí, caithfear an fhírinne a insint. Sheas Ruth Ní Mhuirgeasa ar son na fírinne i gcónaí.

I was deeply saddened to learn of Ruth Morrissey's passing on Sunday. I know that her husband, Paul, her daughter, Libby, and all her family and friends are truly devastated. No words of mine will provide them with any consolation at this heartbreaking time. Ruth was a young, brave, courageous woman who worked tirelessly for others and for future generations of women in this country. Over the past two days, every one of us was touched by the many accounts of her ability to help people in a very good-humoured, kind and touching way. She fought a long, hard battle with her illness and also fought very hard for her own rights to be vindicated in court.

Ruth, along with many other brave women brought together by their diagnosis of this terrible illness, worked to highlight diagnostic failings in this country's CervicalCheck screening programme so that others would not have to go through what they went through.

On behalf of the State, I again sincerely apologise to Ruth, Ruth's family and all the other women and their families for the litany of failures regarding the operation of the cervical screening service that obtained in Ireland for many years. This Government, like the previous Government, acknowledges the failures that occurred with the CervicalCheck programme and we are profoundly sorry for what was allowed to happen. Too many women who should be here and enjoying life with their families are gone because of those failings. Those of us who are here and have the responsibility of elected office have a solemn duty to learn the lessons of how these errors were made, to reform the system and to make sure such errors never happen again. The Government will fully implement the recommendations of the Scally and McGrath reports. We will do so to honour the memory of those who were failed by the programme in the past and to ensure that CervicalCheck is improved and can save more lives.

Last July, the Oireachtas passed legislation to set up the CervicalCheck tribunal. This is a statutory tribunal that will deal with the issue of liability in a non-adversarial way. It was due to start its work in March but this was delayed due to Covid-19. My colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Donnelly, is now in the process of appointing a judge and two other independent members in order that the tribunal can be set up in such a way that allows work to start while respecting Covid restrictions.

Ruth gave voice to the women who suffered in silence. It is important that her legacy is remembered by allowing the women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal to have access to the supports they need and the compensation they deserve in a non-adversarial way. The Government - and, indeed, all Members - wants better screening services for all women. The 221 group is still united in its determination to improve CervicalCheck in order to ensure that women are diagnosed early so they can have the best chances in their fight against cervical cancer.

Ruth was generous of spirit and was deeply motivated by the interests of others. She will always be remembered for putting others before herself and for working endlessly for future generations of women. Again, I extend my sincere sympathies to her husband, Paul, her daughter, Libby, and her family and friends. May she rest in peace.

Members rose.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh sí.