By Olivia Kelleher
Medicinal cannabis campaigner, Vera Twomey, who secured a licence for the medication for her ill daughter, has been invited to speak in the House of Commons in London tomorrow so she can explain the benefits of the alternative medicine in treating conditions such as severe epilepsy.
Vera became friendly with British mother Hannah Deacon when they lived on the same street in Holland during a period where they were both "medical refugees."
Vera was in the Hague to receive medicinal cannabis for her daughter Ava while Hannah was also in the same position with her son Alfie Dingley.
Vera returned home to Aghabullogue, Co Cork with a licence but Hannah Deacon and her son had to leave as they ran out of funds.
Alfie (6) was today due to become the second child with epilepsy in the UK to be granted a licence for medical cannabis. Alfie suffers up to thirty seizures a day arising out of his condition.
Vera Twomey said she will be "honoured and privileged" to speak on a panel in relation to medicinal cannabis alongside Hannah Deacon, leading cannabis oil activist Callie Blackwell, and medicinal cannabis researcher Jeff Ditchfield.
A delegation of cross-party MPs were prepared to fight Alfie's case. Vera says that she is disappointed that Irish TDs and councillors are fairly mute on the subject of medicinal cannabis.
"Gino Kenny will be at the meeting with me. (If the licence had not come through) the British politicians were standing up and saying 'We are going to do something.' They never did it here. The MP's who are supporting the medicinal cannabis extended the invitation to me.
"It makes me feel deeply saddened that the MPs in Great Britain will invite a woman like me to speak where the TD's in the Irish government never showed a willingness to speak except under intense duress."
Ms Twomey said the "exile for medical attention" continues in Holland for families like those of Darren Gibson and his daughter Sophia. The six year old County Down schoolgirl suffers from the same condition as Ava, Dravet Syndrome. The catastrophic form of epilepsy causes multiple seizures.
Ms Twomey rose to national prominence during a three-year campaign to secure access to medicinal cannabis to treat Ava’s rare form of epilepsy, called Dravet Syndrome. The condition has previously pushed Ava into cardiac arrest and an eight-day coma.
Her campaigning included two 260-kilometre walks from Cork to the Dáil to capture the government’s attention to Ava’s struggle.
She also mounted a very successful social media campaign and husband Paul had to live abroad with Ava to guarantee supply of her THC cannabis.
Ms Twomey campaigned for Health Minister Simon Harris to grant a special licence which allows Ava to receive medicinal cannabis treatments.
Further to securing the right for Ava to receive the treatment, Ms Twomey also successfully lobbied the government to include the cost of Ava’s €12,000 a year treatment under its long-term illness scheme.
Vera and her husband Paul had been paying for Ava’s treatment out of their own money, alongside donations raised through a GoFundMe page.
The government has committed to looking into introducing legislation to cater for prescribing cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Vera says she continues to campaign for others around Ireland who are in need of medicinal cannabis.