Thalidomide Ireland

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Department Statement on Thalidomide July 9, 2012

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.

What the Govenment Offered Irish Thalidomide Survivors, 27 April 2010

  • A once-off  ex-gratia payment of €2m (amounting to €62,500 each) to be divided equally between the Irish survivors, as a practical expression of the Government's sympathy;

ITA members reject this because it is derisory. The original 1975 'arrangement' was based on shortened life expectancy, with survivors not expected to live past our 20s. This offer will not address our financial needs into old age as our deteriorating health and mobility decreases.

  • The payment of an annual lump sum, in addition to current payments, equivalent to a further German annual payment which commenced in 2009, of up to €3,680, in the most severe category.

Having waited almost a year for the State Claims Agency report, the Government has shown no initiative in finding a reasonable solution to the Thalidomide issue.  This offer of an extra €1 to €8 a day adds insult to injury for severally disabled survivors.  Continuing to "maintain the historical relativity of German and Irish compensation rates" shows a flawed strategy on behalf of the state considering our fellow German survivors went on hunger strike to protest against this aspect of the compensation in 2009.

  • Provision whereby, if an individual thalidomide survivor has applied for, but does not qualify for either the Disabled Drivers Tax Concession Scheme or the Motorised Transport Grant, their cases will be examined with a view to providing an equivalent level of financial assistance to assist with their transport needs.

This grant is already available to nearly all thalidomiders so it does not address the real cost of adaptions in any way. The cost of adapting a car for one of the ITA's members currently costs €16,000.The maximum available on the motorised transport grant is €5,020.50.

  • Provision for special care packages for thalidomide survivors living in Ireland, to be provided following individual assessments of need carried out by an independent expert to be appointed by the Minister. Dr. Paul O’Connell, Consultant Rheumatologist, Beaumont Hospital has agreed to conduct multi-disciplinary assessments for this purpose.  
  • The designation of a senior manager in the HSE to act as liaison with regard to the ongoing health and personal social services needs of the Irish survivors. Ms Carmel Buckley, a senior nursing official in the HSE will act as liaison for this purpose.

This offer is simply more ink on paper and is a repeat of the failed promises in the 1970s that were given to our parents, who were fearful that our future medical needs would not be met.  Unless the medical needs are put on a statutory footing then it is the same flawed offer of 35 years ago.

 


Finola Cassidy Spokesperson & Secretary of Irish Thalidomide Association call 086 915 1235

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