Irish government agencies at the centre of a probe into the cervical cancer screening controversy have been accused of “foot-dragging”, the Dail has heard.

Alan Kelly TD was also critical of “unreadable” documents that were sent as part of the investigation into the health scandal.

The Labour representative accused the Minister of Health Simon Harris of “not being on top of issues” after it emerged that scanned documents were provided to inquiry chairman Dr Gabriel Scally.

These documents are not searchable.

Mr Kelly warned that if progress is not made soon “the lifetime of this government” will soon end.

“There are members of the house who have more knowledge than those in government,” he said.

It emerged in April that an audit by the Cervical Check screening programme of 1,482 women diagnosed with cervical cancer since 2008 had found potential errors in earlier smear tests in 209 of the cases, with results showing no abnormalities when they should have flagged a cancer warning.

Fianna Fail TD Darragh O’Brien slammed the lack of information provided to Dr Scally as “outrageous” and “unacceptable”.

“Information is being denied and delayed by various administrative and legal reasons,” Mr O’Brien added.

“It has taken a full month to send documents and they were not in an accessible form.”

He said that when the documents arrived they were “buried under a mountain of paperwork”.

“It would be more prudent to set up Commission of Inquiry and have information sought rather than dragged from agencies.”

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Mr O’Brien said that a “change of culture is needed” and a Commission of Inquiry would provide more power in an investigation.

Speaking on behalf of the government, the Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton said that the Health Minister made it clear to Dr Scally that “interruption (of his inquiry) will not be tolerated”.

He told the Dail that a Commission of Inquiry would “run long” and that some of the affected women do not have such time.

“Dr Scally has proved his effectiveness in the first report,” the Education Minister added.

“We needed to get quick access to important information.”