Statement – Meeting with Irish Haemophilia Society
Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today met with representatives of the Irish Haemophilia Society. The IHS requested that there be a reversal of the legal effect of a recent decision of the Supreme Court which confirmed the meaning of the rules governing appeals to the High Court from awards of the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal.
It was suggested by the IHS that the Tribunal had operated a cap on awards until a decision of the High Court overturned that practice.
The IHS is incorrect in their understanding of the workings of the Tribunal and their understanding of the High Court ruling. The Compensation Tribunal did not operate an award system based on a cap or limit as to damages.
In addition, the IHS have requested that a number of its members should be granted a second right of appeal to the High Court to address consequences of ongoing liver diseases and other medical conditions not addressed or otherwise unforeseen by the Compensation Tribunal.
The Minister wishes to state that the Health (Amendment) Act 1996 and the practice and policy pursued by the Department of Health and Children ensures that all of the costs of medical consequences of Hepatitis C infection, including liver transplants are fully met and will always be fully met by the State .
The compensation framework, placed on a statutory footing in 1997 has received widespread support. Its objectives, including expeditious hearings, privacy, informality, and speedy payments, all in a non-adversarial forum, have been met. The Irish response to the infection tragedy is unique and recognised as being one of the most comprehensive worldwide.
The Minister wishes to emphasise that no claimant seeking compensation arising from Hepatitis C infection has been denied a right of appeal to the High Court. In each case claimants were and are offered the right to appeal to the High Court within certain time limits. The Minister has been advised that it would not be legally possible to select claimants, such as members of the IHS and grant them a second opportunity to bring an appeal to the High Court. To discriminate between one category and another would be unconstitutional, violating the relevant equal treatment measures of the Constitution. It was open to each claimant on receiving an award from the Tribunal to appeal that award or any aspect of it, if unsatisfactory. Each claimant received independent legal advice
The Minister is satisfied that the fair workings of the Tribunal, the provision of legal advice and the provision by law of a system of appeal was and is a comprehensive and fair response to the tragic consequences of the infection. The Minister believes that the existing Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal framework must be maintained intact.