By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has apologised to cervical cancer campaigner Stephen Teap.
It comes after campaigner Mr Teap settled his High Court action on Thursday with two laboratories that examined his wife Irene’s cervical smear tests.
Mrs Teap died of cervical cancer aged 35 in 2017, less than a year before the CervicalCheck scandal was revealed by campaigner Vicky Phelan, who died from cervical cancer last month at the age of 48.
Mr Teap’s court action was settled in a rare case where two laboratories admitted a breach of their duty of care in misreading CervicalCheck smear tests.
Speaking on the steps of the High Court, Mr Teap said: “The blood of my wife and the incredible friends I’ve made who have passed away is on the Government’s hands and those politicians who have failed to listen.”
Mr Martin said there was “no defence” for what happened with the CervicalCheck controversy, and offered an apology to Mr Teap.
“First of all, I fully understand where Stephen Teap is coming from. What happened to him and his family is absolutely devastating,” he said on Virgin Media’s Tonight Show.
“In terms of the CervicalCheck scandal, it shouldn’t have happened, there is no defence for what happened.
“And the labs today have admitted that their misreading of these tests were a causative factor in Irene Teap’s death.
“Our sincere sympathies and apologies go to Stephen Teap and his family.”
In 2018 it was disclosed that more than 200 women who used the screening programme CervicalCheck, and who were later diagnosed with cancer, had not been told that their previous smear results had been audited, or that in some cases the results found that their smears had been misinterpreted.
Dr Gabriel Scally, who has carried out assessments of CervicalCheck, concluded that cervical smears were sent to “far distant” laboratories abroad; that the HSE’s quality assurance process was “not fit for purpose”; and that some doctors working for the programme spoke to women and families about its “ill-designed” smear audit in an “obstructive and callous” way.
When asked about the failures in relation to governance over laboratories examining smears, Mr Martin said: “I wouldn’t accept it was price over quantity”.
“I don’t think it was driven by price, I think it was driven with a desire to get a cervical screening programme established much more quickly than otherwise would have been the case.
“But the key issue of failure to disclose in respect of the audit results was unacceptable. But also in terms of the actual mistakes that were made by labs had a causative effect on the deaths of women, which is shocking in itself.”
He added that Ireland now has a chance to eliminate cervical cancer through a combination of rolling out the HPV vaccine, and higher quality smear testing than had been in place in previous years.