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Symphysiotomy scheme offers no justice and little truth – Ó Caoláin

1 July, 2014 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as “totally inadequate and actually offensive” the ex-gratia scheme for women on whom symphysiotomy was inflicted.

Responding to the announcement of the scheme by Health Minister James Reilly, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The scheme announced by Minister Reilly is not only totally unacceptable it is actually offensive.

“To suggest, as the Minister’s statement does, that the monetary awards announced will ‘draw a line under the issue for those affected’ is an insult to the victims. They deserve justice and truth, to be able to tell their story in court or in a proper tribunal and to receive an apology from the State.

“This scheme offers no justice and little truth for women whose health and quality of life was ruined by symphysiotomy.

“It places the onus of proof on women who endured this procedure to show that it adversely affected them, in order to qualify for the second level of payment of €100,000. Judge Yvonne Murphy in her report seems more concerned about minimising the cost to the State than ensuring justice for the women.

“There is to be no State apology. And crucially, there is to be no lifting of the statute of limitations to allow those women who wish to do so to proceed with legal actions. This is despite the fact that a Bill in my name, which would have allowed for this, was actually passed at Second Stage in the Dáil a year ago last April. The Government has since prevented this bill from proceeding any further.

“Minister Reilly further insults the victims by describing just one category of symphysiotomy – those carried out after the delivery of the child by caesarean section – as ‘indefensible and wrong’ – as if all others were ‘defensible and right’. All were wrong and indefensible.

“Symphysiotomy was a barbaric and unnecessary procedure carried out in a disproportionate number of cases in Ireland and for a longer period than most other countries where it was practised. It was driven by a particular conservative view of Catholic morality as interpreted by Catholic clinicians in Irish hospitals and its victims were mostly women in their first pregnancy who were expected to function only as child-bearers.

“The State continues to refuse to recognise this reality. It continues to bar the way to legal action for many of the women. There will be women survivors who will accept this scheme, fully aware that this is but the bare minimum that the State could have made available. But that does not absolve the Government of the responsibility which it has shirked today.”


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