Higgins to meet Emma Mhic Mhathúna over ‘awful reality she’s facing’

President says others are carrying burden of ‘auditing system that has failed our citizens’

President Michael D Higgins, speaking of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, said:  “It’s just a tragic, tragic, awful reality that she’s facing... and of course there are others too who are carrying the burden of an auditing system that has failed our citizens.” File photograph: EPA

President Michael D Higgins, speaking of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, said: “It’s just a tragic, tragic, awful reality that she’s facing... and of course there are others too who are carrying the burden of an auditing system that has failed our citizens.” File photograph: EPA

 

President Michael D Higgins has said he plans to meet Emma Mhic Mhathúna, a 37-year-old mother-of-five who was told this week she is terminally ill.

Ms Mhic Mhathúna is one of scores of Irish women who were wrongly told they had normal smear tests through the CervicalCheck screening programme, prompting the Government to set up a scoping inquiry into the scandal.

In an interview on Thursday, Ms Mhic Mhathúna said what made the situation so heartbreaking is: “I’m dying when I don’t need to die. And my children are going to be without me, and I’m going to be without them.”

Ms Mhic Mhathúna told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland she had lost faith in the Government’s ability to deal with the issue and said it was not minding the women affected.

She said it was up to President Michael D Higgins to do something. “My stance on it is I think the only person that can do something on it now is the President, and I never actually thought I’d say something like that in a country, in 2018, in Ireland. The Government needs to go; they’re not actually capable of minding us.”

Asked about the cervical cancer controversy in Florence on Thursday, Mr Higgins said he had responded to Ms Mhic Mhathúna “and I hope to have the opportunity of discussing it with her”.

“It’s just a tragic, tragic, awful reality that she’s facing. ... and of course there are others too who are carrying the burden of an auditing system that has failed our citizens,” Mr Higgins.

During her interview, Ms Mhic Mhathúna said what “makes this whole situation so sick is that the Government aren’t doing anything about it. When it first broke out I was like ‘OK, well, the head of the HSE is surely going to do something’, and he didn’t.

“And then I looked to Simon Harris, I was thinking ‘Well surely the Minister for Health is going to step in and do something’, that’s why we give these people powers, and he didn’t do anything.

‘Sticking up for them’

“So then I was like: ‘Surely the Taoiseach is going to do something!’ And he just seems to be sticking up for them. And they’re all hiding there in the Dáil and they don’t see what I see.”

Ms Mhic Mhathúna said if her smear test had been read correctly in 2013, “I wouldn’t be here in this situation today”.

“The 2013 smear said that I was healthy when I wasn’t. And because of that then, I actually developed cancer. And now I’m dying. And if the smear test was right, and I was told this by my gynaecologist, who is over three hospitals, so he knows his stuff, this guy is amazing, he told me himself, that if my smear test was right in 2013, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Ms Mhic Mhathúna will have further tests tomorrow to determine “how long exactly I’ve got. They’ll know more when they get the results. All my doctors – my GP, my gynaecologist, my oncologist, they’re a fabulous team. If there’s anything available, they’ll find it.”

Separately, the HSE has said the CervicalCheck helpline it set up in the wake of the crisis has received over 13,000 calls to date.

The HSE said there have been 8,631 call-back requests, while about half of those callers have received a return call. The average waiting time was 11 seconds, it said.

“Calls are being returned to women following a careful exercise of checking records, checking data quality and assigning calls to health professionals,” the HSE said.