A campaign for accountability and change in relation to the cervical cancer controversy cannot afford to lose momentum, the organiser of a rally in Cork has said.
Hundreds of women and men gathered at Bishop Lucey Park on Saturday afternoon and marched to the city centre bearing placards which said “Women’s Lives Matter”.
One of the individuals behind the protest, Lisa Ryan Bermingham, said the women impacted by faults in CervicalCheck were showing tremendous courage in the face of horrific trauma. She said she was furious at the extent of the scandal.
“They (the HSE) took our lives for granted at the end of the day. We are not just standing up for women around today. We are standing up for future generations.
“Can you trust (the Government) with anything? We want to keep it in the limelight even if we have to protest every month. We need the people to support us. We have to be in this for the long haul.”
She said Cork-based widower Stephen Teap, who lost his wife Irene to cervical cancer amid deficiencies in her screening, had reached out to them sending a “beautiful message.”
“He was robbed of his wife and their kids of a mother. Her parents were robbed of their daughter.”
Blogger Nikola Barrett, another of the organisers, said she was infuriated by the situation.
“People are angry. They are very saddened and upset as well. We decided action has to happen. The message is accountability, consequences and change. CervicalCheck has to be overhauled and torn down and rebuilt. We want no more outsourcing of the smears.”
She said women were fed up of the health sector.
“The carnage and devastation that has been left behind. There was no regard for them (the women) at all when the decision was made not to disclose the information about their health. Something has to be done.”
She said the putting of faces to the names of the victims of the scandal had galvanised her to action.
A number of women wore pink for the march, which was originally due to be held outside St Finbarr’s Hospital on the South Douglas Road in Cork but was moved to the city centre because the interest required a bigger venue.
The cancer-screening controversy emerged last month when terminally-ill Limerick woman Vicky Phelan settled for €2.5 million her court action against a US laboratory which the CervicalCheck screening service had subcontracted to read smear tests.
Ms Phelan received a false negative result in her 2011 smear test and later discovered she had cancer. It later emerged that test results were misread in 209 cases.