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'A star that inspires us': Community gathers to send Emma Mhic Mhathúna on her final journey

The first of two funeral masses took place at Seipeal na Carraige, Baile na nGall this morning.

Updated Oct 9th 2018, 2:40 PM

26/8/2018 Papal Visits to Ireland Emma Mhic Mhathuna who passed away on Sunday at 37-years-old. Source: RollingNews.ie

FRIENDS AND FAMILY of Emma Mhic Mhathuna gathered today in Co Kerry to bid farewell to the mother of five.

At a ceremony in Séipéal na Carraige, in the Baile na nGall Gaeltacht this morning, the local priest Eoghan Ó Cadhla described Emma as “a beautiful mother”, “a brave and courageous lady” and “a star that inspires us”.

She fell in love with west Kerry, it was very close to her heart… and we’re lucky that she chose to live with us.

The priest spoke of how Emma had achieved so much, had an “undefeatable spirit” and had “the spirit of the sea”.

“Life has been compared to a journey across the sea,” Ó Cadhla said, “and sometimes, a storm hits without warning.” 

People were also asked to spare a thought for other families affected by an illness.

After the ceremony, John Moran, an uncle of Emma’s by marriage, thanked the public for the support they gave Emma since she went public with her case.

“Thanks to the people of Ireland, who’ve really taken Emma into their hearts. We loved her, we’ll miss her.”

He said that the reason they held the Mass in Kerry, is because “Emma wanted to do it this way”. He also added that today was a day for celebrating who Emma was, and to say goodbye to her, and to say thank you to her.

DSC_1608 Source: Gráinne Ní hAodha

37-year-old Emma died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer. She was one of the 221 women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal, which saw patients receive incorrect information about their smear test results. 19 of the women have died. 

Emma learned in April that her smear tests in 2013 and 2010 had been read incorrectly, and that her cancer had returned. However, by the time she was informed of her condition, her prognosis left her with a matter months to live. 

At the funeral today, a number of items were presented at the Irish-language ceremony: a GAA Gaeltacht jersey, representing Emma’s love for the Irish language and the enjoyment she got from watching her sons play football; a fuschia plant, which the Irish translation is “Deora Dé” or the tears of God, and has red berries – referring to the red dress she wore on the steps of the High Court.

DSC_1615 Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha

A bust of Emma was also offered, along with a photograph of her with her children, and a Bible and rosary beads. Emma had studied theology and Irish in Maynooth, and was a Eucharistic Minister at Séipéal na Carraige.

Her son Mario gave the second reading of the ceremony; classmates of her children sang hymns in the Mass, which was held in the 150-year-old church.

The mother of five came to national prominence as she fought to learn the truth about her own health and how the CervicalCheck crisis arose. 

In July, Emma came to a settlement of €7.5 million after launching legal action against the HSE and Quest Diagnostics, the US-based company that analysed her smear test results.

After the settlement she stood on the steps of the High Court in a long red dress, which she later said her children had picked out for her:

It makes a big difference for all women because it’s a significant amount and it’s a kick in the profit of Quest, and they’re not going to like that, and it makes more sense to read the smear tests properly than to be shelling out a lot of money.

Tributes

Tributes have been paid to Emma for her courage  in the face of her own death, with her friend Julie Malone describing her as a “lioness of a mother”. 

Today’s was the first of two funeral masses for Emma. After today’s service, her body will be removed to St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin for funeral mass at 12.45pm tomorrow followed by burial at Laraghbryan Cemetery in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Emma is survived by her five children, Natasha, Seamus, Mario, Oisin and Donnacha and her father Peter. Her mother Annette predeceased the 37-year-old. 

A book of condolence has been opened by South Dublin County Council in Emma’s honour. 

Emma’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Brother Kevin Crowley, of the Capuchin Day Centre, Bow Street, Dublin. The service provides meals for people in need. 

Her family has asked that their home remain private, as they come to terms with Emma’s passing. 

Additional reporting from Kerry: Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Aisling O'Rourke

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