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Justice and truth for victims of symphysiotomy – Ó Caoláin

15 March, 2012 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking in the Dáil during statements on symphysiotomy the Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD called for justice and truth for the surviving victims of this practice in Irish hospitals.

He strongly criticised the statement of Health Minister James Reilly that this was not a barbaric practice.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“This is both a sad and an historic occasion – the first time that the Dáil has had statements on the use of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy, that barbaric practice which inflicted so much pain, distress and disability on so many Irish women.

“Exactly a month ago on 15 February here in this Dáil chamber I questioned the Minister for Health James Reilly on symphysiotomy. I asked the Minister if he agreed that this barbaric act should never have been carried out in the first place.

The Minister replied:

"I reject the Deputy’s contention that this was a barbaric act, although its use in certain circumstances may well transpire to have been utterly inappropriate."

“That was a very regrettable statement on the part of the Minister. I challenge him to ask any of the surviving victims if they agree with his contention that sympysiotomy was not barbaric. A barbaric act is defined as something cruel and primitive. Symphysiotomy was both cruel in its infliction and its effect and because it was medically unnecessary. It was primitive because it arose out of an attempt to impose on the bodies of women an ultra-conservative version of Catholic teaching.

“We need a full and proper inquiry that is open and transparent and that gives the victims their proper place.

“We also urge the Government to introduce legislation amending the Statute of Limitations as was done in the case of sexual abuse victims. This would allow the women to pursue legal action.

“We also need to see a comprehensive package of supports for the surviving victims of symphysiotomy, including health amendment cards for all.”

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