Veronica Greenaway was in thrall to the anti-vax idols she let into her home — until Covid killed her husband
Veronica Greenaway was an anti-vaxxer who for more than a year believed everything she read about Covid-19 on Facebook.
She idolised some of Ireland’s most prolific Covid deniers and allowed anti-vaxxers from both sides of the Border to use her Co Fermanagh home to spread misinformation. She believed the vaccine would kill her and her 77-year-old husband Billy.
Three weeks ago, her husband of more than 40 years and father to their three children did die. But not from the vaccine. He spent weeks in intensive care at South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen after Covid-19 took hold.
He, like his wife, who had the disease at the same time, had refused the vaccination because he was wrongly told it was causing heart attacks and strokes.
Ms Greenaway now says she has learned a hard lesson “in the cruellest manner possible” and blames the anti-vax movement — including suspended Derry GP Dr Anne McCloskey who addressed meetings on her farm — for “brainwashing” the Border region into believing Covid lies.
“I now feel stupid, I think I was used by the anti-vaxxers,” she said in an interview with the Sunday Independent.
“There were some genuine people who were not convinced about Covid, but there were some hardliners too. This place was hijacked by those hardline anti-vaxxers.
“I am totally devastated. I will have to live with the knowledge that our inaction and scepticism may possibly have contributed to Billy’s death.”
Ms Greenaway had been hosting local community meetings, discussing initiatives such as forest schools and self-sufficient living.
But then the gatherings took an unorthodox twist, with groups turning up to denounce the pandemic as fake, wrongly claiming the vaccine would “sterilise” children and offering to pay off people’s mortgages in return for support.
“I was sucked into it, I didn’t know if Covid was real or not because at that time we didn’t know anyone who had it. I was happy enough for them to hold the meetings here,” she said.
There were three controversial meetings in total on the site of the pet farm near the Fermanagh-Monaghan border last year. However, Mr Greenaway did not attend any of them.
There were two meetings by anti-vaxxers on May 13 and September 7 and one by the Co Wexford-based Society of Peace on October 8 on ‘Common Law’ — the notion that doctors and politicians can be arrested for “crimes against humanity”. Some of its members travelled more than 300km to be there.
Up to 100 people attended some of the meetings — which were arranged via invite-only WhatsApp groups — and came from Dublin, Cavan, Monaghan, Tyrone, Derry and Wexford to listen to speakers, including Ms McCloskey, who addressed the first two meetings.
A video from part of the May 13 meeting, seen by this newspaper, shows a man called Nigel encouraging those in attendance to “break away” from society and begin a new community — which would include forming their own bank as part of a “community trust”.
He said: “People will be able to get alternative medicine, compared to the conventional crap that is going about at the minute that Anne (McCloskey) alluded to.
“With this bank, we will help finance getting rid of your mortgages. It is important that you speak to your nearest and dearest, there is the potential there to come out of the current system.”
One man who also attended the first meeting thought it was about job creation, but instead said he watched McCloskey, who was suspended from her position as a GP for spreading Covd-19 misinformation, telling the crowd a number of falsehoods about the Covid vaccination.
Ms Greenaway was there that night and recalls watching Ms McCloskey, who she had been following on Facebook for information on Covid-19.
Having got rid of her television years before, the 65-year-old was getting her news on Covid-19 from social media and so-called “experts” such as Ms McCloskey.
“I respected Anne because she came across as quite genuine. I can’t sit here and lie, I watched her that night she was here and believed what she said.
“She talked about the vaccine causing stillborn deaths and fertility problems. I thought what she was saying was right, but I was fooled by her.”
Ms Greenaway said she was also influenced because she was “feeling vulnerable being locked down and restricted”.
“Maybe I was a ‘doubting Thomas’, I was only getting my information on Covid-19 on Facebook.”
Armed with falsehoods, Ms Greenaway then shared some of them on her own social media, including that Covid-19 is a government conspiracy and all part of a plot to control all of our lives.
“I have deleted all of those posts in the past few days,” she said.
In October, a meeting to discuss ‘Common Law’ was held on Greenaway’s farm in which literature described as “highly confidential” was handed out to more than 80 people.
One of the leaflets was signed by “Christopher-Nicholas of the O’Hara Domain” and appears to include a thumbprint in blood.
It contains a green crest and states the letter writer was rescinding and revoking “all oaths, vows, commitments, energetic ties, contracts written or oral, every power of attorney that I, the living man in my true capacity have ever taken upon myself in this life or any other life that is not in alignment with my master Jesus here and now”.
“They were despicable people,” said Ms Greenaway. “That was the last meeting here. I was at that one, but I left it.
“They started off with the ‘Our Father’ and the alarm bells went off. They brought in bibles as props, they were crazy.”
One of the most outspoken believers in ‘Common Law’ is former UCD Professor Dolores Cahill, who Ms Greenaway also “respected”.
“Dolores was quite convincing. She and Anne McCloskey are the two people I looked up to, but I was wrong.”
Crucially, there were two things that changed Ms Greenaway’s view on Covid-19. Firstly, someone she knew who had been vaccinated had a baby safely, and then her husband passed away last month.
It felt more real when Mr Greenaway was taken to hospital and his family were told by doctors every day how the disease had been “attacking his body”.
She now wonders if she could have persuaded him to take the vaccine but said her “stubborn” husband would not listen — including to the medics in his own family.
“He had met people who said they had side-effects from the vaccine. There were people he was told about who had died of strokes and heart attacks and did not want to get injected,” she said.
Ms Greenaway has said she will now get the vaccination when she becomes eligible for it.
The Border region, which has suffered from soaring Covid cases, is awash with conspiracies. One man in a video seen by the Sunday Independent was heard remarking he would never take the vaccine, saying: “I wouldn’t stick that British muck in my body for them to track me.”
Was Billy Greenaway brainwashed and does his wife believe misinformation caused his death?
“No, Billy was not brainwashed, I was br ainwashed. I was led to believe Covid was not real, but it is real. Covid misinformation is causing people to die here. But hindsight makes geniuses of us all,” she said.