A Private Members Bill, proposed by Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, last night passed through its second stage to allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation.
The bill, which intends to lift the Statute of Limitations for one year and enable victims of symphysiotomy procedures performed between 1940 and 1990 to claim compensation, will now go to committee stage while an independent study – the Walsh Report – is carried out to assess the future needs of the women who underwent the procedures.
Speaking in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said “Lifting the statute bar – unanimously recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice in June 2012 – would obviate procedural battles and ensure unfettered access for all to the courts. Judges here have no discretion in relation to the statute bar, as they do in other common law jurisdictions”.
In reply, Health Minister Dr James Reilly said he would not oppose the proposed legislation to allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation despite its “serious flaws”. He warned that although Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s bill might not achieve its objectives, the coalition did not want to send out the “wrong message” by opposing the proposed legislative changes.
Many of the surviving victims who underwent symphysiotomy procedures were in Leinster House to hear the proceedings, and they gave the Health Minister a round of applause when he concluded his speech by saying he would ensure closure for the survivors of symphysiotomy by the end of the year.
A spokesman for Minister Reilly later said that, in addition to accepting the Private Members Bill that seeks to remove the Statute of Limitations for victims of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy performed on them without medical justification, and allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation, the Government is also examining how best to meet the health and social needs of women affected.