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Thursday 13 December 2018

Applause and tears as tragic Emma takes final journey across city

The coffin of Emma Mhic Mhathuna enters the Pro Cathedral in Dublin. Photo: PA
The coffin of Emma Mhic Mhathuna enters the Pro Cathedral in Dublin. Photo: PA

Cervical cancer scandal campaigner Emma Mhic Mhathuna took her last journey through her native Dublin yesterday.

There were emotional scenes and applause as the hearse carrying the body of the 37-year-old mother-of-five drove through the streets.

At the Pro Cathedral, more than 1,000 people attended her funeral and remembered her courage and fearlessness.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna, who campaigned tirelessly to highlight the CervicalCheck scandal, died on Sunday.

She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016, despite twice having been told that her smear tests were clear.

Crowds outside the Pro Cathedral for Emma
Crowds outside the Pro Cathedral for Emma

The funeral procession was led by her father Peter and five children Natasha, Seamus, Mario, Oisin, and Donnacha.

As the hearse passed Leinster House, a crowd of politicians and staff broke into applause.

Carnations

Many of the women had dressed in red as a tribute to Ms Mhic Mhathuna's courage. Some carried red carnations.

There was no sign of the Taoiseach, nor any of the front bench ministers, although Leo Varadkar sent his aide de camp to represent him at the funeral.

Earlier, a meeting of the Health Committee had taken place. At it, Dr Gabriel Scally - who is leading the inquiry into the smear tests scandal - raised grave concerns that other women may be affected who were not included in the group of 221 identified by the HSE.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna's hearse also passed by the Department of Health yesterday. Her family said the stops at the department, the Dail and Government Buildings were "a final and departing effort to encourage those within to hold a mirror up to the organisations and agencies that they preside over".

Emma’s daughter Natasha is embraced by Sabina Higgins with President Michael D Higgins. Picture:Frank McGrath
Emma’s daughter Natasha is embraced by Sabina Higgins with President Michael D Higgins. Picture:Frank McGrath

The family added that it was "a request to those organisations and agencies to commit to ensure that Emma's tragic situation will never happen to another Irish mother or woman again".

The cortege also travelled to Phoenix Park to stop briefly on the instructions of Ms Mhic Mhathuna at Aras an Uachtarain.

It was her way of saying thank you to President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina for their kindness to her.

Earlier, the couple had joined other mourners at the Pro Cathedral. Sabina hugged Ms Mhic Mhathuna's eldest child and only daughter, Natasha (16).

Vicky Phelan, whose High Court settlement broke open the CervicalCheck scandal, was also present with her solicitor, Cian O'Carroll, who also represents victim Ruth Morrissey.

Chief celebrant Fr Paddy Moran told the congregation that Ms Mhic Mhathuna had been writing a children's book.

Emma Mhic Mhathuna who has sadly died
Emma Mhic Mhathuna who has sadly died

She was unable to finish it but he shared the first two chapters of the story with them. It told of an idyllic summer in Kerry, where she moved with her children last year and where she died. On Tuesday, there was a funeral mass for her in her adopted home village of Ballydavid.

Fr Moran said Ms Mhic Mhathuna had spoken with no malice, anger or bitterness of the official apologies she had received. Instead, she had been just a mother, thinking first and foremost of her children.

After the mass, Natasha, bravely and unwaveringly, read aloud a message from broadcaster Ryan Tubridy.

It read: "Once in a while in the life of a chat show host you have the privilege of meeting someone so striking, so impressive and so memorable that their thoughts, words and actions stay with you long after the first conversation.

Vivacious

"It feels peculiar writing about someone so present and so vivacious in the past tense.

"Emma should not be part of the past because she feels so present and yet it's highly likely that she will be remembered forever in the future.

"She'll be remembered as a mother, a campaigner, a fighter and a woman in a ball gown taking on the people who needed to be challenged and refusing to back down. Survivors don't take nonsense lying down, they pick themselves up and speak truth to power.

"Emma spoke that truth and while we will all miss the woman we knew, her truth survives to fight another day."

There was applause as she ended the message.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna was laid to rest beside her mother, Annette, at Laraghbryan Cemetery in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

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