Head of the HSE resigns over a catastrophic failure of empathy…

I’m slowly coming to the view that in our complex world, most of the problems we face are rooted in poor or inadequate forms of governance. Tonight, the head of Ireland’s HSE (a still embryonic form of the NHS) has resigned.

It comes after a couple of weeks of constant pressure, and more importantly, heartbreaking stories of women who having been given an all clear with their cervical smear tests were only told after it became inoperable that their original test had been positive.

It came to light only after one Irish woman in that position, Vicky Phelan, had had to fight Clinical Pathology Laboratories in Austin, Texas through the Irish High Court to win a €2.5m settlement.

But in fact much of the suffering was exacerbated by HSE inertia in notifying the women affected when the false positives where discovered. Most Leader’s Questions in the Dail have been dominated by the matter over the last two weeks.

This resignation of O’Brien came after days of resistance from the Taoiseach. The trigger occurred at a meeting of the Dail Public Accounts Committee, when three HSE memos were shared, which Mr O’Brien had seen in 2016.

A telling extract from tonight’s Nine O’Clock News on RTE…

The telling detail is the official order to contain the media story, rather than prioritising the care of the women.


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty