Varad­kar’s ef­fort to com­fort Cer­vi­cal Check vic­tims was noble but un­wise

Enniscorthy Guardian - - OPINION -

THERE is lit­tle doubt that Leo Varad­kar’s at­tempt to re­as­sure and pro­vide some mea­sure of com­fort to the vic­tims of the Cer­vi­cal Check scan­dal was made with the best of in­ten­tions. How­ever, be­fore the Taoiseach and Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Harris pledged to make sure none of the women would have to en­dure a trial be­fore the courts, they should have taken the time to find out of that was even pos­si­ble.

Had they done so, Mr Varad­kar and Min­is­ter Harris would, surely, have quickly learned that, while they could en­sure that the State wouldn’t fight the women in court, they had no power to stop the US labs at the cen­tre of the scan­dal to con­cede de­feat and ad­mit li­a­bil­ity.

Some more cyn­i­cal com­men­ta­tors and a num­ber of op­po­si­tion politi­cians have claimed that the Taoiseach’s pledge was lit­tle more than a po­lit­i­cal ploy and an at­tempt at dam­age lim­i­ta­tion in the face of a mas­sive and grow­ing cri­sis for the Gov­ern­ment and the health ser­vice.

While such claims are un­der­stand­able – given how spin driven mod­ern Ir­ish pol­i­tics has be­come – they seem un­fair in this in­stance.

Mr Varad­kar and Mr Harris both gen­uinely ap­pear to care about and want to do right by the women and the fam­i­lies caught up in the Cer­vi­cal Check cri­sis.

Their mis­take – one both men and their ad­vi­sors should have seen com­ing a mile away – was to as­sume that in this case, and for some un­known rea­son the un­feel­ing forces of bu­reau­cracy, cap­i­tal­ism and the law would take the day off.

The Gov­ern­ment has the power to en­sure the State aids the vic­tims of this scan­dal and does not add to their dis­tress, suf­fer­ing and an­guish by drag­ging them through the courts.

Un­for­tu­nately, the State has no such pow­ers to com­pel pri­vately owned US based lab­o­ra­to­ries – on whom the scan­dal could have enor­mous fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions – to com­ply.

That fact was as true on the day Mr Varad­kar and Min­is­ter Harris made their ill ad­vised prom­ises as it is to­day.

The Taoiseach and Min­is­ter should have re­alised this and couched their prom­ises to re­flect the un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion.

A pledge that the State would not force the women into the courts – and would try to get the labs to adopt the same ap­proach – would not have been as re­as­sur­ing as the blan­ket prom­ise that no more vic­tims would be forced to fight their cases be­fore a judge.

It would, how­ever, have en­sured that the vic­tims knew where they stood in terms of the State and the lab­o­ra­to­ries.

The fact that Mr Varad­kar has been forced to row back on his pledge is not just po­lit­i­cally em­bar­rass­ing for him it is deeply un­for­tu­nate for the vic­tims at the heart of this dis­grace­ful saga.

Two months af­ter the scan­dal be­come pub­lic we seem to be right back at the start in terms of the State’s re­sponse. The Gov­ern­ment ap­pears will­ing to hold its hands up, ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity and

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