Press Release

Department Statement on Thalidomide

Minister Reilly has met with the groups representing Thalidomide survivors and has been trying to make progress on reaching an agreement that takes account of their concerns and needs. A key objective of the Minister is to provide for the health and personal social care needs of the persons involved.

To that end – among the actions taken – the Department and the HSE have prepared arrangements to ensure that all survivors of Thalidomide are provided with an assessment of their health needs led by Dr Paul O’Connell, Consultant Rheumatologist, Beaumont Hospital and a senior HSE nursing official.

The discussions have also dealt with the issue of financial needs.

The Minister has indicated that he is prepared to consider a financial gesture of goodwill.

The State has been making payments to Irish survivors of Thalidomide since 1975. The payments have been made because it was considered appropriate to make provision for survivors of Thalidomide. As the State does not bear a legal liability the payments have not been made in a legal context.

The payments made by the Irish State were designed to augment payments made to the survivors by the German Foundation set up to compensate survivors of the drug.

Minister Reilly has stated that he is willing to enter into discussions about a

  • healthcare package on a non statutory basis
  • financial gesture of goodwill having regard to current economic circumstances
  • statement to the Dail recognising the challenges faced by survivors

The Irish Thalidomide Association has stated that it fundamentally disagrees with the State’s position and is unwilling to engage on this basis.

Having taken legal advice, the Minister is informed that the State does not have a legal liability for the injuries suffered by Irish survivors of Thalidomide. All Attorneys General who have considered this issue have concurred with this position.

The Minister wishes to make clear that his department stands ready to meet when the representatives of survivors of Thalidomide would wish to do so.