Emma Mhic Mhathúna and our constant fight as women in Ireland

The funeral of Emma Mhic Mhathúna took place yesterday in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral and I cried.

I cried for her, for myself and for women in Ireland.

I didn’t know her. I had never met her. But like many others, I felt like I knew her. She could have been my own mother. She could have been an aunt, a sister, a cousin, a wife and she didn’t deserve this end. They say the good die young, but that is no consolation to her five young children and family. The heart chips when you let yourself think of the life she had ahead; the memories, the smiles, the love.

Thirty-seven years was too soon to be the end of her story.

Emma was failed. She was abandoned by the state and by the health system, the very thing we trust to save us from our ailments. The sentiment shared by the women who lined the streets as the hearse moved past was that, collectively, women in Ireland had been let down. We had been treated as second-class citizens. It is inconceivable to think anything else. The original number of 221 wrongly diagnosed women was challenged in the Seanad yesterday, as the author of the original report raised fears that the number would increase. Dr Gabriel Scally outlined fears that the HSE system was flawed and that many more women than originally thought could be affected. More women whose lives are like threads being held and toyed with by a blemished system. Emma said that she didn't see her death as part of God's plan but as a result of human error. It is when errors are this costly that our government institutions should step up and do what is required, but I still hear stories of friends mothers who have had cervical checks and are waiting months for the results to return.

The gap between government and citizens seems to widen in each news bulletin and article. In Tuesday's budget, it was outlined that 17 billion would be invested in our frayed health system-the highest amount in the state’s history. Nevertheless, none of that was specified for extra cancer screening and funding, which seems incomprehensible in light of recent events. Trust was shattered, and we seem to be in play with a government whose accountability and execution is staggeringly disappointing.


As women in Ireland, we seem to be eternally fighting. We fought for our societal and bodily rights, and we won. However, when one fight simmers away another begins to bubble. This time this battle is frightening and all too eerie. This one is for our lives, for our health, for our being. Who can we trust when the country we live in and live for, seems unable to protect us? We fight, but even the bravest and strongest need a break from the battle.

At her last court case, when Emma stepped through with her red gown she made a statement. She was fighting for herself but she was fighting for us too. Many women yesterday stood in solidarity with Emma by wearing red. Without saying one word, they explained everything; our lives matter.

Her children have been robbed of a mother and we, a pillar of strength. Her fight cannot be omitted to the past and so her death to be in vain. For the women affected, and the many more who may travel that dark road, our country needs to restore the sanctuary of home. We need to feel that we are cared for, cherished and secure.

Because we matter, our lives matter and Emma did too.

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