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Government needs to re-think approach to symphisiotomy victims – Gerry Adams TD

15 July, 2014 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has pressed the Taoiseach to meet symphisiotomy survivors to devise a comprehensive approach which meets the needs of all the victims of the barbaric practice.

Mr Adams made the call in the Dáil today after serious concerns were raised by the UN Human Rights Committee about the Government’s approach to this issue.

Gerry Adams said:

"This State’s policies towards women and children are currently being scrutinised by the UN Committee on Human Rights in Geneva.

"Committee members are being made aware of the results of a toxic political culture which existed in this State since its foundation, and in which women and children were denied their rights.

"This toxic culture is evident in a sorry saga of scandals which includes the Magdalene laundries, Bethany Home, the Mother and Baby homes, the illegal trafficking of children, child abuse in Church and State-run institutions, and the unequal status of women in the Constitution.

"The UN Committee will hear testimony on a range of other issues highlighting a dereliction of duty by this State towards its citizens including Travellers and prisoners.

"A 50-page report submitted to the UN by victims of symphisiotomy, will show how this State failed to protect more than 1,500 women who endured this barbaric practice and who still suffer, physically and psychologically, from its consequences decades later."

The Sinn Féin Leader reminded Mr Kenny that the Government had undertaken to right this wrong, and asked:

"Taoiseach, why then did you ignore the call from survivors for the Statute of Limitations to be lifted to allow them the choice of going to court?

"Why did you produce a Redress Scheme that denies acknowledgment of the grievous wrong done to these women?

"Why provide only a minimalist financial package?

"Why deny the women an independent medical board and the right to advocacy?

"Taoiseach, the UN Committee has asked why this State refuses to accept any responsibility for the clear abuse of the rights of Irish women over decades. Why is that?"

Mr Adams said the UN Human Rights Committee Chairman was deeply concerned about the fact  that symphisiotomy operations were involuntary.

He said:

"Fundamental questions have also been raised over the legality of the State’s plan for redress. The UN Human Rights Committee rapporteur has asked whether the scheme is compatible with the State’s obligations under international human rights treaties.

"Concern also has been expressed at the lack of judicial review, the absence of individual assessment and the fact that claimants would have to give up their legal rights.

"The scheme you have produced has upset the majority of the 350 surviving women and put them on a collision course with the Government.

"They deserve State acknowledgement of their ill-treatment.

"They need full and proper compensation commensurate with the trauma they endured and continue to suffer."

Mr Adams asked Mr Kenny whether, in light of the serious concerns raised by the UN Committee, it was incumbent on The Taoiseach to re-think the Government’s approach to this issue:

"Isn’t it time to meet with these survivors with a view to devising a comprehensive approach which meets the needs of all the victims of symphisiotomy?"

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