Yesterday, I attended a public meeting for the Survivors of Symphysiotomy, a group of women who were horrifically abused in Irish hospitals.
These women have been largely voiceless until now, and it is with great courage, and justified outrage, that they have chosen to speak out. They were violated by a barbaric medical operation that was imposed, in many cases, for obscure “moral” or religious reasons, and in the face of medical evidence as to best practice.
Anybody who wants to understand what happened just has to watch Teresa Devoy’s extraordinarily brave interview with Vincent Browne. (See also here.) The first time Teresa got any help or recognition from the State at all was when her new GP in Greystones helped her get a medical card and home help, seven years ago. Other than that, nothing.
The Survivors of Symphysiotomy group met yesterday in Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin to consider their response to the Walsh report, the first part of a Government inquiry into the abuse. In private session before the public meeting, the women first voted unanimously to repudiate the Walsh report in its entirety. They then voted unanimously to call on the Department of Health to not proceed with the upcoming consultation. Their third vote, also unanimous, was to hold their own consultation with survivors.
The group disagreed with various findings in the report. They were also furious that they were not consulted during the first phase of the inquiry. The strengths or weaknesses of the content of the report do not matter at this point. What matters is that the report has further alienated the very women for whom it is meant to be seeking justice.
It is outrageous that a process of inquiry would be designed which has led to the enormous hurt, sadness and anger expressed at today’s meeting. The women who were abused and humiliated by State-run institutions in their hour of need, and who have been dealing with the consequences their entire lives, feel that, once again, the State is not listening to them, is not treating them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
I am calling on the Government to do exactly what these women want. They have repudiated the Walsh report, so it should be binned, today. If they want to start the process again, that must start immediately, and it must be the process they want. They should also, immediately, receive a full apology from the Government for having treated them so poorly to date in this inquiry.
I am also calling on the Government to lift the statute of limitations for victims of symphysiotomy for one year, in order to allow the small number of survivors (estimated at 200) to obtain some long overdue restitution.