Press Release

Statement following the meeting of the Tánaiste with the Irish Haemophilia Society

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, acknowledges the work being done by the Irish Haemophilia Society on behalf of its members, which was evidenced by the large attendance at its recent AGM which was attended by her officials.

The Society raised the issue of the perceived adversarial approach being used by the Compensation Tribunal and the High Court. The Tánaiste said that the Compensation Tribunal was set up to operate in a non-adversarial fashion and it continues to do so now. An early hearing date is normally given once the claim is ready for hearing.

When people appeal their award to the High Court the normal Rules of Court apply. In a minority of appeal cases cross-examination will be unavoidable if the claimant is the only person who can testify to certain important details, but advance notice will be given in every case and the Court will then decide whether cross examination is appropriate. The legal team for the State is aware of the government’s wishes to have any cross examination handled sensitively.

The State’s lawyers take every possible step to achieve early hearings in the High Court and where delays occur they are caused by matters outside the control of the state.

The Society raised the issue of progress relating to the Proposed International Pharmaceutical Inquiry. In July 2003 the Government was approached unilaterally by a firm of New York lawyers with a proposal to sue certain pharmaceutical companies in the United States arising from the manufacture of blood products which caused Hepatitis C and HIV infection to persons with haemophilia. Initial advices received from Counsel appointed by the Attorney General raised serious concerns in relation to the proposal. Following careful consideration of these advices, the Attorney General recommended that an independent opinion be obtained in the United States in respect of the proposed litigation. The Chief State Solicitors Office has engaged a legal firm to provide the required advice and the Tánaiste is requesting that this advice be available by the end of May.

In relation to the insurance scheme, Government has agreed to the parameters of this scheme for persons infected by blood and blood products administered within the State. The groups representing persons infected accepted these parameters. It was agreed that the scheme be enshrined in primary legislation.

The text of this legislation is currently being drafted.