‘I Asked Her To Consider Carefully’


Director General of the HSE Tony O’Brien

This morning.

Director General of the HSE Tony O’Brien spoke to Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

Mr O’Brien’s interview followed the HSE confirming yesterday that some 208 women in Ireland had a false negative smear test before being diagnosed with cervical cancer and 162 of these women – 17 of whom are now dead – were not told of their earlier incorrect test.

The figures emerged after Limerick mum-of-two Vicky Phelan settled her action against a US laboratory, subcontracted by the CervicalCheck to assess the tests, without admission of liability for €2.5million last week.


Terminally-ill Ms Phelan was only told last year that a 2011 smear test assessed by the US lab returned a false negative while she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014.

The information about the 208 women only came to light after Ms Phelan refused to sign a confidentiality agreement connected to her court action.

Yesterday, Dr David Gibbons,  a former member of the National Cervical Screen Programme, told RTE’s Jackie Fox, on Morning Ireland, that he had raised concerns about the outsourcing of cervical smear tests to US labs in 2008.

He raised his concerns with Mr O’Brien when he realised that the US lab tests were detecting fewer cases of cervical cancer than the tests done in Ireland. Dr David Gibbons warned there would be problems in ten years’ time.

When nothing changed as a consequence of him raising his concerns, Dr Gibbons resigned.

Mr O’Brien is due to retire this summer.

From this morning’s interview…

Sean O’Rourke: “At any stage over the past week, did you consider standing down sooner?

Tony O’Brien:No.”

O’Rourke: “Despite the fact that, quite clearly, you and the minister Simon Harris are very much at odds, in very serious way.”

O’Brien: “I don’t believe we are. After what seems to be reported in the media, the disagreement between us, we were having a conversation last night which was perfectly normal and didn’t touch on this at all. You know, we’re grown-up guys, we have different roles, I said what I said because it would not have been appropriate for me to publicaly express confidence or otherwise in staff because I am, effectively, their employer. That is not the same…”

O’Rourke: “That’s a bit like sort of, you know, circling the wagons, you know, my people, right or wrong.”

O’Brien: “No, no, if the director general of RTE went out tonight and said she didn’t have confidence in you, you would take great umbrage at that. You would probably find it quite difficult to come in and present your programme tomorrow. You’d have the opportunity to sue RTE for effectively sacking you and for doing so without any process.”

O’Rourke: “Did you…”

O’Brien: “So my role is different.”

O’Rourke: “Did you ask her [CervicalCheck clinical director Grainne Flannelly] not to resign?”

O’Brien:I asked her to consider carefully, in order that I wanted to be sure that she had reflected fully and made the right decision and I spoke to her at some length on Saturday evening, at the point at which she was confirming to me her decision to resign. What I didn’t want her to do was to do something in haste without a period of reflection and I also had a duty of care to make sure that she had access to some appropriate clinical colleagues that could talk to her about her own situation.

Let’s remember all of the women involved in this are human beings, flesh and blood. So too are the staff members and clinicians involved. I take my duty of care to all of them equally seriously. And I think some sections of the media need to think about that too.

Listen back in full here

Previously: HSE Boss ‘Dismissed My Concerns’ About Cervical Screening Results

Mark Stedman/Rollingnews


10 thoughts on “‘I Asked Her To Consider Carefully’

    1. realPolithicks

      You won’t get any tough questioning from o’rourke unless he is interviewing someone from SF.

  1. CoderNerd

    O’Brien should be booted out today. No golden handshake. His performance at the PAC shows him to be utterly vile.

    1. Brother Barnabas

      best you could hope for is that he’ll “step aside pending an enquiry”

      wouldn’t be holding any breath, though

    2. david

      Just heard that that company was avoided the bowl screening contract in listening to the dail debate
      So that means possibly the same horror could be the same for many endoscopy patients
      Getting pretty scary
      Only the tip of the iceberg

  2. RuilleBuille

    After six years of watching O’Brien saying ‘sorry’ and ‘it won’t happen again’ whilst the stable door is banging into his ar$e I don’t believe anything will change.

  3. Martco

    ah listen folks we’re all getting worked up here over nothing, sure why would SOR get stuck into his guest? It’s not his fault….just some communication issues….nothing that can’t be solved with a committee & planning & some dialogue & sure RTE knows that, it’s not like any kind of disaster has struck one of the main pillars of our civic society here. is it?

    this is definitely NOT down to any kind of mismanagement of a deliberately outsourced testing regime in an attempt to save money that has failed spectacularly & caused lots of dead citizens who didn’t get duty of care & 1000’s of alive but very worried women with partners & children & extended family..like my Mrs Martco who had a cancer scare earlier this year & who spent most of yesterday making phonecalls & getting 2 hrs sleep last night before eventually electing to getting booked for a test.

    I read that Vicky Phelan’s solicitor is fighting hard to get Harris to disclose every inch of paperwork relating to the case. If anyone is organising a protest march on the Dail to help in applying pressure on our elected trough dwellers can you please let me know so I can attend?

    I’m tired of “The State” killing people and getting away with it. No more.

  4. Catherine costelloe

    When false , disgusting files were created on Maurice MC Cabe and no suspensions , it tells us all we need to know of HSE. Cesspit.

Comments are closed.