Minister for Health Simon Harris; Senator Mary Alice Higgins in the Seanad this morning; Section 20 of the CervicalCheck Tribunal Bill 2019
This morning, in the Seanad…
Minister for Health Simon Harris presented the CervicalCheck Tribunal Bill 2019 after it passed all stages in the Dail last night.
This is the legislation that will underpin the setting up of a tribunal for women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.
In her contribution, Independent Senator Mary Alice Higgins said that while the tribunal should be set up as soon as possible – she has some “key concerns and questions”.
In respect of one of these concerns, Ms Higgins said the legislation should ensure that cases be heard in public – in respect of the women who wish for their cases to be heard in public.
“We often talk about the concern for privacy in Ireland but we can sometimes be excessive and we can ask: which privacy are we seeking?
“Is it State embarrassment we are seeking to avoid or is it privacy?
“So, Section 20 says that the tribunal shall conduct its hearings ‘otherwise than in public’ which, I presume, means “in private”. And then it says except for ‘Where a claimant requests the tribunal to hold a hearing or part of a hearing in public and the tribunal agrees that it would be appropriate to do so…’
“This is my concern. If there is any situation where a claimant says ‘I wish this case, I wish my hearing to be in public or part of it to be in public’, we shouldn’t be in a situation where the tribunal is going to deny them that right.
“And the right to have their case heard in public. That is a concern for me minister. I would hope that you would be able to assure me that the tribunal will never be intending to deny women the right to have their story told in public. But perhaps you can assure me on that?
“Because currently the legislation, I see, does allow for the tribunal to deny a request from a complainant to have their story told in public.”
Ms Higgins said she may potentially table an amendment to the bill so as to ensure women will be able to have their case heard in public if they so wish – and irrespective of the view of the tribunal.
Watch back here (from 29.20)