The support group established to help those affected by the CervicalCheck scandal has welcomed a formal apology by the State, calling it a "watershed moment".
On Tuesday, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, apologised to all the women and their families who "suffered from a litany of failures in how cervical screening in our country operated for many years".
"Today we say sorry to those whose lives were shattered, those whose lives were destroyed, and those whose lives could have been different...We apologise to those who survived and still bear the scars, both physically and mentally. As do their families...We apologise to those who are here in our presence. To those watching from home who have kept it to themselves. We apologise to those passed on and who cannot be here," he said.
He noted that while cervical screening programmes cannot detect all cancers, the State acknowledged that many failures took place in relation to CervicalCheck, including in the areas of clinical governance and management.
He also acknowledged the "humiliation, disrespect and deceit" some women were exposed to, as well as false reassurances and attempts to play down the seriousness of the scandal.
"Today's apology is offered to all the people the State let down. And to the families who paid the price for those failings. A broken service, broken promises, broken lives - a debacle that left a country heartbroken. A system that was doomed to fail.
"We apologise to our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. To the men who lost the centre of their lives and who every day have to try and pick up the pieces. The single fathers and grandparents. To the children who will always have a gaping hole in their lives. To all those grieving for what has been taken from them. The happy days that will never be," the Taoiseach said.
The support group, 221+, said that the apology is an "acknowledgment from the core of Government that our healthcare system was not patient centred'.
"It is a first step in the process of rebuilding confidence in the capacity of the State to put the patient first in the delivery of public healthcare generally, and for women's health specifically.
"For us, the acknowledgement and this apology have huge significance. They are central to the process of healing and of rebuilding our lives, and the lives of those who love, support and care for us," it stated.
However, it pointed out that while the apology is about the State taking responsibility for its previous failings and inaction, "what must follow is that those with the power to do so will work to establish the governance structures, the oversight, the management capacity and the quality assurance checks, which are vital to ensure that these failures will never happen again".
"A blueprint has been established by the work and recommendations of Dr Gabriel Scally, Prof Brian MacCraith and others working alongside them. The true success of today will be measured by the resolve we see across the health system to implement all those recommendations.
"Our hope now is for a time in Ireland when no woman will ever again have cause to doubt the availability or the quality of the healthcare they receive from the State," the group said.
For more information on 221+, click here.
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