Up to 400 people, most of them women, turned out in the Square in Tralee yesterday evening in a show of support for Emma Mhic Mhathúna, the 37-year-old mother of five whose smear test failed to detect cancer warning signs and who now has terminal cancer.
The half-hour event, which included five minutes of silence, was organised by Sinn Féin and local councillor Toireasa Ferris, who said it was to show solidarity.
“Youze keep the tea coming and I’ll keep the interviews coming,” Ms Mhic Mhathúna bantered with reporters who asked for interviews in advance of short addresses to the crowd.
Despite her dire prognosis, Ms Mhic Mhathúna displayed some trademark humour, remarking that “an amount” of women had phoned to ask her the identity of her gynaecologist, whose attractiveness she alluded to during her appearance on The Late Late Show last Friday.
And if that doesn’t get publicity for the smear test, nothing would, she joked.
On a serious note, she has been told that the cancer has spread to her vertebrae.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna said she was speaking out because she wanted to make the country safer for everyone, including children.
She said she was greatly looking forward to a private visit tomorrow from President Michael D Higgins. She had heard him speaking in Maynooth and had been greatly impressed, she said. It was her impression that he was a true humanitarian, she said.
However, she was not altogether clear about the protocol. “Can you hug the president?” she asked.
She was especially keen to hear the president’s opinion of the Government and how it was handling matters.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna said the turn-out in Tralee and the reaction she had got showed she was having an impact — and also showed what could be done when women got together.
However, she stressed that it was not a feminist movement and she did not set out to bring change just for women. Men were deeply affected by her story too, she said.
The busy media appearances did not bother her at all and she would keep going as long as her energy held, said Ms Mhic Mhathúna.
“This is what being Irish is all about,” she said to the gathering in the evening
She told onlookers that the Dáil should be fired when it didn’t do its job.
What she was doing now was for her children, she said, breaking down at one point.
They were doing their homework and were continuing with their football for An Gaeltacht.
West Kerry, which is now her home, was giving her great support, she said.
Among the crowd were women carrying placards saying ‘Silent But Strong’. Nicola Coffey from Tralee said they wanted to show support for Emma and for
“What is happening is a disgrace,” she said.
Mother of one Michelle Griffin from Tralee said women were very worried.
“Women here this evening could be victims and they don’t know it,” she said.
Ms Mhic Mhathúna confirmed she had lodged a complaint with gardaí in Dingle, alleging that there has been a cover-up of the CervicalCheck scandal.
She specifically named Tony O’Brien, former director general of the HSE, in the complaint.
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