Irish Thalidomide Association

changing, challenging and facing the future

2008 September  Campaign News

 Hunger Strike!

In Germany four thalidomiders went on hunger-strike on 18th of September. They are wanting better compensation and doing so in ICTA’s name.  They reported being in good spirits but starting to feel cold and tired.

Norbert Schweyen – one of the hunger strikers – says he is prepared to die unless the demands are met.

Please give them your support.  

Email the Hunger Strikers




        Time: 11.00

Where: Cadogan Hotel, 75 Sloane Street SW1X 9SG, nearest underground is Knightsbridge

               At 11.40 we walk in a group to the German Embassy.


April 2008 London Rally

Survivors from around the world marched on the German embassy in London, launching the International Contergan Thalidomide Alliance (ICTA) campaign for a global settlement in London on Thursday, Apr 3, 2007. Over one hundred people took part in the protest, with some traveling from as far away as Canada.   At the press conference, many thalidomiders spoke with passion and emotion about their lives and their difficulties.  ICTA campaign leader Nick Dobrik said compensation plans agreed in the 1970s were no longer enough to pay the bills.  

A statement from Grünenthal issued in response to the protest said that it did not acknowledge any basis for the ICTA’s demands. Sebastian Wirtz, the leading member of the family that runs the company, added: “It is unacceptable to join discussions with an organisation that for the past several months has aggressively attacked and tried to damage our company.”

 In response, the ICTA says that it has no desire to damage the company, said to be worth £2 billion.


But Germany has a responsibility, said Claudia Schmidt-Herterich, a German member of the alliance, and seen here on the right,  "To me, it is unimaginable that a company would continue trading under the same name after killing 5,000 babies and damaging many more,” she said.

More Images from the Protest

Thalidomide the Battle Goes on

Fifty years after the drug was launched in Britain, its victims are still fighting for compensation from its German John-Paul Flintoff of the Sunday Times

Gary Skyner and Freddie Astbury had waited a long time for the meeting. The man they had arranged to see, Chris Matijasevic, was the managing director of the UK subsidiary of Grünenthal, a German company that is little known in this country to those outside the pharmaceutical industry.
Skyner and Astbury, however, had been aware of it since their earliest days. The firm had had a devastating effect on their lives before they were even born.
In the late 1950s, Grünenthal launched the drug thalidomide in 46 countries around the world. Marketed as a cure for morning sickness, it produced terrible deformities in the children of some mothers who had taken it while pregnant. Skyner was born with a short left arm and no thumbs, Astbury with neither arms nor legs.
In the thalidomide rights movement, Skyner and Astbury are known for their uncompromising attitude. “Let me give you an analogy,” said Skyner. “We’re like armed robbers. We smash the place up, put everyone in the vaults, and tell the manager that we’re going to make a cup of tea while he tries to remember the combination for the safe.”
Read the full article and respond here...

Thalidomide film premiere revives compensation fight
By Tony Paterson in Berlin
Published: 08 November 2007
Germany's pharmaceutical industry spent more than a year trying to ban the film, but last night a moving, controversial and widely acclaimed television drama about the tragedy suffered by thousands of children crippled by the drug thalidomide was finally broadcast to an audience of millions.

The two-part drama – entitled A Single Pill and shown at prime time – amounts to a savage indictment of Grünenthal in Aachen which first manufactured thalidomide, which was known in Germany as Contergan, in 1957.

Lawyers for Grünenthal spent 18 months trying to ban A Single Pill, arguing that it mixed fact with fiction and distorted the truth. However last year, judges at Germany's constitutional court dismissed all objections to the film and ruled that in the interests of free speech it should be shown.
Read more from this London Independent article

RTE Radio  programme on 14th February 2006 which discussed Thalidomide 

 Outside The Box, 14th February 2006 discussed Thalidomide

Diagio joint press release after UK settlement
Kevin Donellon, talked on Radio 4's Woman's Hour with his mother Agnes. Listen to them talking about Thalidomide and its effects.

 BBC Radio 4 broadcast an Archive Hour programme on Thalidomide. Presented by Geoff Adams-Spink, a BBC producer with experience of the drug's effects, it tells the story from the first appearance of Thalidomide in the late '50s and early '60s.




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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