Sadness at the death of Emma Mhic Mhathúna

THE tragic death at the weekend of 37-year-old mother of five young children Emma Mhic Mhathúna has been greeted with a deep sense of sadness.

But, in truth, there is anger too at the way she was treated by this State.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna’s cervical smear tests were misread on TWO occasions. And then, when it was discovered that mistakes had been made, she wasn’t told.

Following fatally incorrect misreadings of her smear tests, Emma went on to develop terminal cancer. There is every reason to believe that if correct readings had been made at the time, Emma Mhic Mhathúna would, through early treatment, now be looking forward to a long and healthy life with her children, family and friends.

The catastrophic failures in the smear testing system were compounded by the wilful refusal to inform Emma, and more than 200 other women like her, when the mistakes were discovered.

This amounted to an unforgivable breach of trust by people who treated Emma, and the other victims of this appalling scandal, as undeserving of the truth.

Patients’ rights were disregarded in a thoroughly unconscionable manner. For that, the State must take responsibility. And, inevitably, the buck stops with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and other members of the Cabinet, particularly Health Minister Simon Harris.

When the cervical cancer scandal broke at the end of April last, because of the bravery of Vicky Phelan, it was immediately clear that a grave injustice had been perpetrated by paid officers of the State on hundreds of women.

There were fairly robust attempts early on to defend the indefensible, to explain and excuse away why hundreds of women were not told that their smears had been misread and how as a result they’d gone on to develop cervical cancer. Eventually, the truth won out.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, intervened and promised that from then on women would receive fair treatment and would not have to prosecute their legitimate claims for compensation through the courts. Tragically, the Taoiseach has been proven not to be a man of his word and the entire scandal has fundamentally undermined his credibility.

As women attempt to receive legitimate compensation, the State is still adopting the default strategy of deny, delay and defend. Despite all the suffering, heartache and disappointment this scandal has caused, women are still being dragged through the courts.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna had to go to court as well to receive justice. She was driven by a determination to provide for her children after she was gone.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna was a wonderful mother - warm, affectionate, loyal and strong. She was intelligent, a brilliant communicator, a fighter and an extraordinary advocate for decency and fair dealing.

It is an unspeakable hardship that her children will now have to live their lives without their mother.

It is a dreadful affliction that her beautiful children will be denied her strength, her company, her love and guidance on a daily basis.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna captured the hearts of the people of Ireland and particular the people of West Kerry amongst whom she chose to raise her family.

We extend our deepest sympathies to her children, her family and friends.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.