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28 Jan 2022

Longford mum Lynsey Bennett was 'failed by the State'

Longford mum Lynsey Bennett was 'failed by the State'

Lynsey Bennett speaking outside the High Court yesterday

The Dáil heard today that Longford mum Lynsey Bennett was 'failed by the State', with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar saying he was 'sorry' Lynsey's case against the HSE was not settled sooner.

During leaders' questions, Sinn Féin's Deputy Pearse Doherty said no woman should be forced to go to court to seek justice and still not even have an apology from the State or the HSE.

"On what is World Cancer Day, I extend my solidarity to Ms Lynsey Bennett and express my deep anger at what we saw yesterday - another woman and family failed by the State, another woman who was forced to go to the courts due to the failures associated with the CervicalCheck scandal and despite assurances that such would never happen again. It is a scandal. The Tánaiste gave a commitment to these women in 2018 and it is time that it was delivered upon. My thoughts are with Ms Bennett and her family today."

Also read: Longford mother Lynsey Bennett to appear on the Late Late Show

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said his thoughts were with Lynsey Bennett and her daughters Zoe and Haley. He added, "It is the objective of the State and the Government to settle all cases by mediation where possible. I understand this case was settled by mediation and did not have to go to trial but perhaps it could have been settled earlier. Only the legal teams know that. At the time I made the commitment, as I have explained before, I believed and hoped it would be possible to settle all cases by mediation or negotiation but, unfortunately, that has not proved possible."

Labour Leader Alan Kelly suggested An Tánaiste misspoke when he used the word "trial". He continued, "They certainly are not trials. My heart dropped, as, I think, did that of everybody in the nation who watched the video of Lynsey outside the court. It was another woman failed by the State over the misreading of her slides. She is 32 years of age. She is fighting for her daughters Zoe and Haley. Why is she being dragged through the High Court fighting when she should be spending time with Zoe and Haley?"

Deputy Kelly asked, "Why is the Government and, dare I say it, the previous Government continuing to treat women like this?"

He concluded, "Will the Tánaiste and the Government direct the State Claims Agency to act in a humane and quick way for all of the women where negligence is not being disputed so that Lynsey and all those who follow her will be treated in a better way and allowed to spend their precious time with their families?"

Also read: Women's health campaigner Vicky Phelan angered by absence of apology to Longford mum Lynsey Bennett

Mr Varadkar said he didn't 'know the details of Lynsey's case' and agreed with Deputy Kelly that it was 'too sensitive' a matter to be 'sparring about'. 

The Fine Gael Leader added, "I understand from media reports that the case was settled. I am sorry it was not settled sooner. I do not know whether it could have been settled sooner but it is a good thing that it was settled.

"The term "trial" is a legal term. It applies to any court hearing but I accept that may not be the way people hear it so I am happy to rephrase and use the term "hearing" rather than "trial" because perhaps it is more sensitive."

He said the State Claims Agency can be directed to deal with cases in a humane and quick way where negligence is not disputed but pointed out a problem will arise where facts are disputed. "That will happen in some cases where the doctors and scientists will say they did not misread the smear."

Mr Varadkar pointed out that the CervicalCheck tribunal was established to allow cases  to be heard in a more sensitive way, however, Deputy Kelly countered, "The tribunal is a waste of time because the 221+ group will not support it. If it (the tribunal) was the answer, there would not be 200 cases lining up in the High Court."

Also read: Brave Longford mum Lynsey Bennett to 'focus on her own fight to stay alive as long as she can' after settling her case against HSE

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