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Dáil to debate Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill 2013

9 April, 2013 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking at the press conference today organised by Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) in Buswell’s Hotel, the Sinn Féin health spokesperson and convenor of the All-Party Oireachtas Support Group for victims of symphysiotiomy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, appealed to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore TD, to embrace the bill, that seeks to set aside, for one year only, the bar on taking legal action by those among the some 200 survivors of symphysiotomy who would wish to pursue their case through the courts.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
"The bar created by the Statute of Limitations sets a time limit of two years in initiating actions in personal injury cases. While in other jurisdictions judges retain inherent jurisdiction to allow cases to proceed where justice demands, Irish legislation provides no discretion whatsoever to the courts in determining whether cases may advance.
"The overwhelming majority of those subjected to symphysiotomy or pubiotomy were young women having their first child whose knowledge of childbirth was extremely limited. Many did not realise that the injuries they suffered were other than the normal effects of childbirth. Nor did they understand, for many years, and in most cases decades later, that these deleterious consequences were the result of childbirth operations that had been performed on them without their knowledge or consent, for these were, in effect, clandestine operations, which were concealed from them by sections of the medical profession.
"As a consequence of this lack of knowledge, some survivors have never initiated proceedings, nor even sought professional advice, while others only did so, in very many cases, decades after the wrongful acts to which they were subjected were committed.
"The Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill 2013 will allow those women currently excluded from taking legal action, to do so if that is their choice."
Deputy Ó Caoláin will move the Bill in the course of Private Members Business in the Dáil on next Tuesday, 16th April 2013.
Continuing, Deputy Ó Caoláin said;
"The bill is based on the precedent of the Statute of Limitations Act 2000, which lifted the Statute of Limitations for sexual abuse victims of residential institutions. The wording of the Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Bill 2013 mirrors the wording of the 2000 Act section by section. The bill does not establish any new cause of action - rather, it lifts the limitation period for bringing proceedings in respect of existing wrongs. Over 75% of these wrongs were committed in private hospitals who were insured at that time and who are liable for those injuries.
"I wish to acknowledge the huge and sincere contribution of TDs and Senators of all parties and Independents in support of the campaign of the victims of symphysiotomy for justice over recent years. We have worked hard and well together and it is my earnest hope that we will see this critically important piece of legislation safely across the line in the coming week, to be fine-tuned, as required, by government in the committee, report and final stages of its passage" concluded Deputy Ó Caoláin. ENDS

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