OACS Ireland has been engaging with Officials in the Department of Health for a significant period. At the last meeting with the department officials, the number of candidates approached was at that time nearly exhausted, and suggestions were made that perhaps there was an option of running a Public Jobs campaign or a limited tender process.
The latest information received from the department of health date Nov 16, 2023, on the chairperson for the inquiry was “On the matter of the Chair, they don’t have any update on this” since then we have received no further communications on the appointment of a suitable chair.
However, we have gone back to the department present with a response to the chair briefing document dated Dec 15, 2023. We felt the briefing document was an overly sanitised view of the events which have led to the establishment of the inquiry. The impression it leaves is that this is solely an initiative of government and fails to reflect that this came as a result of many years campaigning by OACS.
It adds further insult to the many families affected by taking sodium valproate during pregnancy and the injustice suffered as a result. We were shocked that the department could provide such a one-sided briefing without any consultation with those affected or even getting some of the basic facts right, including the new name which has been attributed to the syndrome.
There is a fundamental flaw in the data provided namely that the clearest indication of the numbers of individuals affected is set out in the HSE report produced by Ronan Glynn in 2018 which found that 3,126 babies had potentially been exposed to the drug between 1975 and 2015. There is no reference to the need for an examination of the role of state agencies prior to 2014, as everything seems to start from 2014 which is incorrect.
Further to that there is no reference to the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee report in May 2018 where twelve recommendations were made and not fully acted upon. We find it is astounding how so much history was left out, and which should have gone to perspective chairs.