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'Who will be able to take my place when I'm gone?': Emma Mhic Mhathúna on telling her children she's dying

Emma Mhic Mhathúna is one of the women caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal, and has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
May 10th 2018, 7:33 PM 39,192 51

THE MOTHER-OF-five who has just been told she has terminal cancer as part of a HSE review into the CervicalCheck controversy has called on politicians to stand up and take responsibility for what has happened to the women caught up in the scandal.

Emma Mhic Mathúna told RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland this morning that she’d been informed this week that she’s dying, and had told her children.

She is one of the 209 women whose smear test results were re-examined as part of an audit into screening programme CervicalCheck, which was instigated by a successful High Court case from Vicky Phelan – another woman who now has terminal cancer and was incorrectly told her smear test results were normal.

A smear test of Emma’s incorrectly came back as normal in 2013. All of her results came back as normal until 2016, when she was first diagnosed with cancer.

Speaking on An Saol ó Dheas on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta this afternoon, Emma said that she had found it extremely difficult to tell her children about her diagnosis.

“I sat down and told them I was dying … Oisín, he’s six years of age, he asked if I’d be coming back, don’t go anywhere Mammy, do you not love me? He doesn’t understand,” she said.

I had to ask them the awful question – do you want to be kept together… I have a very hard job now because I have five children and my father lives in England. It’s hard to find a good family for one child, but for five…

She asked the question, in relation to her children: “Who will be able to take my place when I’m gone?”

Emma also called on President Michael D Higgins to take a stand on the matter. She said: “Women of Ireland are dying, they are the daughters and mothers of this country.  I have five children, Vicky Phelan has two … how many children will be without mothers after this scandal?”

Speaking from Florence this evening, President Higgins told RTÉ News that he will meet the mother next week.

“I have responded to her,” he said. “It’s just a tragic, tragic, awful reality that she is facing. I’ll just leave it like that for the moment.

There are others too carrying the burden of a testing system that failed our citizens.

There were emotional scenes in the Dáil earlier as Emma’s case was raised.

Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary became visibly upset when speaking, and said that the interview on Morning Ireland had “seared the soul of our country”.

Calleary pointed out that Emma said the government are not “capable of looking after us”.

He appealed to Finance and Public Expenditure Minister, Paschal Donohoe (who was taking Leaders’ Questions today) to show leadership in the ongoing scandal.

“For the sake of our country” show that you are capable of dealing with this, he said.


Donohoe said he also heard the interview this morning and he found it “harrowing” to listen to.

He added that there are few words he could offer to recognise the scale of tragedy Emma and her family are grappling with.

The minister said he felt the same emotion as many did listening to the interview this morning.

His world “slowed down and stopped” when he heard the anguish in Emma’s voice, he said.

With reporting from Christina Finn and Órla Ryan

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Sean Murray


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