Tony O'Brien, HSE chief, steps down over smear test scandal

Tony O’Brien could face a motion of no confidence in the Dáil over the smear test controversy

TD Marc McSharry has defended his questioning style at the Public Accounts Committee, saying his questioning of outgoing HSE boss Tony O'Brien yesterday is consistent with his style at previous committee hearings.

Tony O'Brien, the director general of the Health Service Executive, resigned due to his implication in a scandal regarding screenings for cervical cancer.

The scandal came into the public eye last month when Vicky Phelan, who has terminal cancer, settled a High Court action against the HSE and Clinical Pathology Laboratories for €2.5 million over incorrect smear test results from 2011.

The company added that these screens have been performed through manual examinations of individual slides, without the benefit of computer-based imaging and a separate HPV test, which together comprise the clinical standard in the United States and many other countries for cervical cancer screening.

Carrigaline native Irene Teap was diagnosed with stage two cancer in 2015 and died on July 26 past year, leaving behind two sons, after two false negative tests in 2010 and 2013.

"You wouldn't last 20 minutes [in the commercial sector] and you know it".

Mr O'Brien accused Mr MacSharry of "causing hysteria".

"It is not acceptable to me that such memos were in circulation in the HSE and in the Department of Health and it is certainly not acceptable that these memos were not even signed by individuals", said Minister Harris.


"I sometimes look across the room and hope their children will never see and hear how they behave,"he said".

Mr O'Brien added that in spite of "the clear communication failures surrounding the CervicalCheck Audits", he is "confident" that on the completion of the Scally Review, the value and quality of the CervicalCheck Programme will be shown.

CPL said it is one of two United States, and two Irish laboratories, that have provided Pap smear testing for the Irish cervical screening program since 2008.

Responding to O'Brien's tweet, MacSharry told Today with Seán O'Rourke: "I can understand Tony O'Brien is unhappy, he's lashing out somewhat".

"There will be and there must be accountability here for the women of Ireland and I am absolutely determined in relation to that".

This morning Mr MacSharry said the forum of the PAC is about accountability and there a "robust style".

Speaking on the same programme as MacSharry, Vicky said of O'Brien: "Can he not go away quietly?"

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