Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Questions (168)

Joan Collins


168. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views regarding the lifting of the statute bar to allow for women who were victims of symphysiotomy. [29570/13]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I have already publicly stated that I believe the practice of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy, the experience of which has been well articulated by the 'Survivors of Symphysiotomy' representative group, was both brutal and, in many cases, medically unjustified. The Deputy will also be aware that a Private Members' Bill seeking to temporarily lift the Statute of Limitations for women who experienced these procedures was published in April of this year. The Government remains committed to dealing with this issue and to finding a just and workable resolution for those victims who have been adversely affected by this appalling practice. This objective informs the approach being taken by the Government in relation to the ongoing consultations being conducted under the stewardship of Minister of Health, Deputy Reilly, and his officials in the Department of Health. In that context, the outcomes of the final phase of consultations under the independent research into the practice of symphysiotomy, which had been commissioned by the Chief Medical Officer, will further help determine the best way to resolve this issue. The real challenge for the Government is to find a solution that will balance the need for an early resolution to this issue with the legal complexities of achieving this by means of an amendment to the legislation governing the limitation of actions. This area of law is also the subject of a report and recommendations published by the Law Reform Commission in 2011. That report considered the existing limitation of actions framework to be unnecessarily complex and in need of reform and simplification. As the Minister, Deputy Reilly, explained in his statement to this House on the occasion of the publication of the Private Members' Bill on 14 April, the Government is not yet persuaded that lifting the bar will resolve the problems facing the women who wish to bring their cases before the courts and we do not wish to see a situation where women who have suffered enough are faced with high litigation costs in potentially unsuccessful challenges. The limitation of actions aspect is, therefore, one in relation to which all options will be examined by the Department of Health in conjunction with my Department, which deals with the framework legislation for this area, and in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General from whom legal advices have been obtained.

In conclusion, therefore, I wish to reiterate my commitment and that of the Government to resolving the complex issues presented by the brutal legacy of symphysiotomy at both the human and legal levels. I also wish to acknowledge the wider support being given by Members of both Houses to the early realisation of this objective. I will continue to work with the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, in bringing together the competencies of our respective Departments to achieve this in the most appropriate and fairest way possible for the victims concerned.