Government has ignored thalidomide survivors for 60 years, campaigner says

ireland
Government Has Ignored Thalidomide Survivors For 60 Years, Campaigner Says Government Has Ignored Thalidomide Survivors For 60 Years, Campaigner Says
The Irish Thalidomide Association outside Leinster House marking the 60th anniversary of the international withdrawal of the drug
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Vivienne Clarke

A spokesperson for the Irish Thalidomide Association has called on the Government to meet survivors to hear what they have to say, having “virtually” ignored them for 60 years.

Finola Cassidy told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that letters from the association to the Government had gone “virtually unanswered” and barely acknowledged.

Ms Cassidy pointed out that over the past 60 years, some 25 ministers had dealt with the thalidomide issue and it was time for the situation to be resolved. She acknowledged that “the thalidomide tragedy” did not happen on this Government’s watch, but the current Minister for Health was the custodian of the State’s actions.

Over the years medical knowledge had improved the diagnosis of thalidomide and the association represents some unacknowledged survivors, she added.

These people now needed to have the right to come forward as some of them had been needlessly affected by the drug, she said.

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Survivors had been forced to take legal action in the past because previous health ministers would not sit down and talk with them, added Ms Cassidy.

The issue had been in the High Court for eight years, she said. It was now time for the Government to sit down and have a meaningful engagement. “We need to meet so they can hear what we have to say.”

Survivors had been forced to court because there had been no engagement from previous ministers for health “who would not sit down and listen to our needs and build from there.” The response from the Government was “unforgivable and was adding insult to injury,” she said.

“It’s time to draw a line in the sand, it’s time to draw a line under this saga.”

Apology

Mothers of thalidomide children who were now in their 80s and 90s needed to hear that “this was not your fault,” she urged.

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Some compensation had been negotiated for survivors since the 1970s, nobody had expected the survivors to “last so long” or the new difficulties they would face because of the overuse and misuse of disabled limbs.

“This is a new phenomenon now medically recognised by experts all around the world,” she said.

Ms Cassidy said that in the Dáil politicians would stand up and say they were going to bring heads of Bill, “and yet they never met with us.” This was an extraordinary stance by the Government, she said.

“Many of our survivors are just waiting to take that meeting [with the Government]. We are waiting to be heard.”

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