Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Mary White (Fianna Fail)
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach. I am speaking on behalf of the 32 survivors who comprise the Irish Thalidomide Association. I want this case put right. I support the calls of deeply committed citizens who have been wronged in a shameful way. Thalidomide caused significant suffering and permanent disability and contributed to deaths. It is more than four decades since this tragedy occurred. Despite some advances in the package of measures announced by the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney, in April, there is still much unfinished business.
I was deeply moved by Ms Mary Duffy, an artist living in County Wicklow, who wrote in The Irish Times in May that she was conflicted by a reluctance to ask for what she needed because she could not bear the pain of being refused. On the Government offer of €2 million in compensation for survivors of thalidomide, she wrote that it opened a deep wound and stuck in the knife. The time has long since come for the State to do its part in healing these wounds. As a public representative, I feel a strong sense of duty to continue shining a light on this injustice.
The members of the association are remarkable. They have undertaken the burden of a campaign for justice that they should have been spared. Their campaign persists because of the inadequate response of the State. In the Seanad and the Dáil, there is cross-party support for the campaign. The association's secretary, Ms Finola Cassidy, is in the Gallery. The cross-party support must be met with action. The survivors of the thalidomide drug are owed an apology, appropriate compensation and access to the legal documents of the time. They did not receive adequate support as children and remain in need today. This issue can and must be put right. The wrong cannot be undone, but justice can and must be achieved.