The woman we have just respected, Ruth Morrissey, passed away on Sunday. As the Taoiseach is aware, Ruth was one of hundreds of women impacted upon by failures in the CervicalCheck screening system. She has paid the ultimate price for those failures and is now grieved by her family, including her heartbroken husband, Paul, her devastated little girl, Libby, and her wider family and circle of friends. There are no words I can offer that can adequately convey the magnitude of the loss felt by her death, but suffice to say, the State grievously failed Ruth Morrissey. Tá mo chroí briste ar son clann Ruth. Is tragóid é cás Ruth, agus nílim in ann glacadh leis go raibh uirthi dul chuig na cúirteanna.
Instead of holding up its hands and admitting liability, the State joined the US laboratories that were at fault in this case in dragging a terminally-ill woman through the courts and fought her tooth and nail every step of the way.
Even when Ruth won her case at the High Court, she was hauled before the Supreme Court to suffer one final indignity before she was vindicated. Ruth's solicitor, Mr. Cian O'Carroll, has described this as "deathbed litigation".
All this happened despite the then Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, giving a promise to the women concerned that this would never happen. The truth is that this adversarial and aggressive approach has been maintained. I understand there are approximately 203 active claims relating to the CervicalCheck matter, of which eight have been concluded. I would like the Taoiseach to confirm those facts.
This is entirely wrong. The Government should not be joining with negligent labs in fighting these women. A decent Government would stand up for them, protect them and ensure justice is done. A decent Government would be acting to ensure none of this happens again. We need to fix the system, and that is the only lasting tribute that can be made to Ruth and the other women involved. As the late Ms Emma Mhic Mhathúna once said, talk is cheap and action must follow.
Will the Taoiseach now intervene and ensure the State accepts and acknowledges its responsibility and liability and stops dragging very sick women through the courts? Will the Taoiseach accept the outsourcing of screening has been a disastrous failure? He has committed to the establishment of a national laboratory for cervical cancer testing and this must happen as a matter of urgency, as 90% of Irish screening is still done in US labs. Astonishingly, despite everything that has happened, this is still unsupervised by an Irish inspector. Will the Taoiseach commit to fast-tracking the establishment of the national laboratories for cervical cancer testing as a matter of absolute urgency? In the meantime, will the Taoiseach instruct the HSE that Irish inspection of US labs must happen urgently?