Joint Irish Council for Civil Liberties/ Survivors of Symphysiotomy Press Release
Tuesday 2 December 2014
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Survivors of Symphysiotomy and the Chairman of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Sir Nigel Rodley, have all voiced their deep reservations about Varadkar’s scheme, which closes to applicants this Friday (5 December 2014).
Leo Varadkar’s symphysiotomy payments scheme includes a “deed of waiver and indemnity” that will require survivors accepting payments not only to irrevocably waive all their rights and entitlements, but also to “indemnify and hold harmless” the people responsible for the suffering imposed upon them. The waiver explicitly includes “all doctors, consultants, obstetricians, surgeons, medical staff, midwives, nursing staff, administrative staff” as well as the “Medical Missionaries of Mary and/or any Religious Order involved in the running of any hospital”.
ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:
“Leo Varadkar is proposing that women who have spent their entire adult lives in pain should be required to waive their rights forever in exchange for a once-off payment from the State. Worse than that, the Varadkar waiver requires women accepting payments to facilitate the impunity of those who could be held responsible for their injuries, expressly including doctors, consultants, obstetricians and the Medical Missionaries of Mary which ran a hospital (Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda) where much of this surgical abuse was perpetrated.”
“This runs directly counter to this summer’s recommendations by the UN Human Rights Committee that the State should initiate a prompt and independent inquiry, identify, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and facilitate access to judicial remedies. For the Minister to flout the UN’s recommendations and women’s rights in this way is simply unconscionable”, Mr Kelly added.
Survivors of Symphysiotomy Chair Ms Marie O’Connor said:
“Survivors of symphysiotomy are outraged by this overt attempt by Minister Varadkar to coerce them into signing a document that so blatantly denudes them of their rights and unashamedly denies them recourse to any of the remedies for redress explicitly recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva last July. The Minister seems unable to see how poorly his scheme reflects on Ireland, although criticism, internationally, of his Government’s strategy to pay off successive groups of victims while burying the truth about their abuse has been mounting.”
“Our members voted overwhelmingly to reject the Varadkar ex gratia scheme because it copper fastens impunity, shields perpetrators, shirks State accountability and denies victims access to judicial remedies.”
Speaking to Newstalk FM’s Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Shona Murray yesterday (1 December 2014), the Chair of the UN’s Human Rights Committee, Sir Nigel Rodley had this to say:
“I simply don’t understand how the state can look the other way at what seems to have been systematic assault on people who weren’t in a position to resist or even give consent in many cases. We called for prosecutions explicitly and I would hope, I have to hope, that the recommendation won’t be ignored.”
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Survivors of Symphysiotomy are calling for the ex gratia payments scheme to be set aside and replaced with measures consistent with the UN Human Rights Committee’s recommendations. Should the current payments scheme remain in place, it is imperative that the Varadkar waiver be amended to ensure that it does not preclude women who accept payments from pursuing those directly responsible for their injuries, the groups say.
Survivors of Symphysiotomy
Tel. + 353 1 838 8168 Mob: +353 86 818 0254
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Tel. + 353 1 799 4503 Mob: +353 87 9981574
Note to editors:
· Symphysiotomy is a cruel and dangerous childbirth operation that unhinges the pelvis, severing the symphysis joint or sundering the pubic bones. Ireland was the only developed country in the world to practice these childbirth procedures in the mid to late 20th century.
· The current version of the Symphysiotomy redress scheme can be found at this link: Symphyisotomy Redress scheme
· The waiver of rights is set out in Schedule 1 to the scheme (at pages 38-39) and is also available directly at this link: The waiver of rights is set out in Schedule 1
Under the terms of this waiver, the list entities / bodies / individuals who will enjoy impunity in relation to women who accept payments includes:
· “Ireland; The Attorney General; The Minister for Health; The Minister of any Government Department in the State; Any other organ of the State; The State Claims Agency; The Health Service Executive; All former Health Boards in the State; All local authorities in the State; All hospitals, nursing homes, former hospitals or former nursing homes in the State whether public, private or otherwise and/or their insurers; All doctors, consultants, obstetricians, surgeons, medical staff, midwives, nursing staff, administrative staff, Boards of Management, associated with all hospitals or nursing homes, former hospitals or former nursing homes in the State whether public, private or otherwise and/or their insurers; The Medical Defence Union and all or any of its members or former members; The Medical Protection Society and all or any of its members or former members The Medical Missionaries of Mary and/or any Religious Order involved in the running of any hospital and/or their insurers.”
· The UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on Ireland were published on 24 July 2014 in Geneva. They are available at the UN Human Rights Committee’s Concluding Observations on Ireland UN’s website
· The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, in partnership with colleagues, submitted a detailed ‘Shadow Report’ of human rights issues in Ireland to the Committee in advance of the July hearings. Copies of this report can be downloaded at The Irish Council for Civil Liberties,Symphysiotomyireland.