Donnelly agrees to meet thalidomide survivors to discuss supports

Donnelly agrees to meet thalidomide survivors to discuss supports

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has agreed to meet members of the Irish Thalidomide Association despite previously refusing to do so, for legal reasons. A number of thalidomide cases are currently before the courts.

Thalidomide was used to treat morning sickness in pregnancy. It caused foetal damage with survivors born without limbs or with limbs foreshortened, with impairments to hearing and vision, as well as injury to internal organs.

First used in 1957, thalidomide was withdrawn internationally in 1961 but it was some time later before this happened in Ireland. There are about 40 thalidomide survivors in Ireland.

At a protest by the Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) outside the Dáil last November spokeswoman Finola Cassidy said: “The Government keeps saying they are bringing the heads of a thalidomide Bill forward in this Dáil term, to offer some sort of statutory redress. The thing is, we have never met with Stephen Donnelly ”.

She noted that Dr James Reilly was the last minister for health they had met and asked: “How can we have justice when the input is about us, without us?”

A large number of TDs and Senators, including those from Government parties, attended the protest and followed up with Dáil questions to Mr Donnelly. In a written reply to them on Wednesday night, he said he would meet the ITA “strictly without prejudice to ongoing litigation”. He said he was anxious to assure thalidomide survivors “of the Government’s ongoing commitment to provide them with the necessary supports to meet their related needs”.

ITA chair John Stack thanked “the more than 40 TDs and Senators” who lobbied Mr Donnelly “to reset a meeting he cancelled last year”. The ITA welcomed “this handbrake turn by the Minister and look forward to meeting him soon. We hope once and for all he and the Government listen and act,” he said.

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