The Government is to establish an independent statutory tribunal to deal with claims related to the national cervical screening programme, CervicalCheck.
The tribunal will be established based on the recommendations made by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in his recent report on an alternative system for dealing with CervicalCheck cases.
However, while the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has secured Government approval to prepare legislative proposals as a matter of priority, the Government has pointed out that the tribunal will take time to establish.
Chair of the tribunal will be Ms Justice Mary Irvine. She will begin preparatory work ‘as soon as possible ahead of the establishment of the tribunal later in 2019', the Department of Health said.
Hearings will be heard in private and will be ‘less adversarial than the current court process', the department noted.
It also insisted that once the tribunal is established, cases will be held ‘in a timely manner'.
The tribunal will be voluntary for all parties and it will not restrict the right of women or their families to give evidence in public in the High Court, if that is their wish.
"The tribunal will allow women to progress their cases in a timely and sensitive, less adversarial manner, while equally respecting the constitutional entitlement of all parties to a fair hearing. I want to thank Ms Justice Irvine for taking on this role. I look forward to engaging with her in the New Year and progressing with this work as soon as possible," Minister Harris said.
Meanwhile, the Minister has said that he is also to examine the early establishment of a non-statutory compensatory scheme to provide ex-gratia payments to the 221 women affected by the non-disclosure of the CervicalCheck audit.
*Pictured is Minister for Health, Simon Harris