Belfast Telegraph

Mourners for cervical cancer mum Emma Mhic Mhathuna hear of 'ferocious love' for her children

The coffin of Emma Mhic Mhathuna is carried from St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin following her funeral Mass
The coffin of Emma Mhic Mhathuna is carried from St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin following her funeral Mass
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina comfort Emma’s daughter Natasha

By Nicola Anderson

Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of Dublin yesterday for the funeral of a high-profile campaigner in Ireland's cervical cancer check scandal.

Emma Mhic Mhathuna, a 37-year-old mother of five, died on Sunday after a battle with cervical cancer.

She was incorrectly told her smear test results were normal up until she was diagnosed in 2016.

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

Family priest Fr Paddy Moran told mourners at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral that Emma had a "ferocious love for her children" and was "extraordinarily brave".

He revealed she had been writing a children's book and shared with them the opening two chapters of her unfinished story.

Addressing mourners, who included Irish President Michael D Higgins, Fr Moran spoke of Emma's great courage, strength and humour in facing her illness and said she has held onto life for as long as she could.

Fr Moran said that when he had visited Emma at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, he had been struck by "her sense of calm and her ferocious love for her children".

When he had asked how she was doing, her reply was very striking, he said.

"Her illness, she said, she did not see as part of God's plan, but rather as the result of human error," said Fr Moran.

"She said the organisations who made errors had apologised and that those letters of apology meant a huge amount to her. She didn't want those letters for herself but for her children."

Over a thousand people filled the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin's Marlborough Street for her funeral.

The Taoiseach was represented by his ADC Caroline Burke.

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

Emma's remains later stopped outside the Republic's Department of Health and the Dail following the funeral mass.

Fr Moran said that Emma 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".

They had talked about her illness, which she spoke of in a very calm manner. The priest had told Emma that he thought her extraordinarily brave.

"I admit that what I said next I didn't phrase so well. I said if I was very ill I would like to just go to a quiet place and end my days there," Fr Moran recalled.

"She perked up and looked at me and said 'You mean you would just give up'."

He added: "She looked at me like I had introduced some foul concept into the conversation, because giving up were not words in her vocabulary.

"On the back foot, I said that wasn't what I meant. What I meant was I hoped that my faith would enable me to live my illness and my death.

"Emma looked at me and she gave me the look, the Emma look that says 'I hear what you are saying but I am not sure you are right, in fact I'm fairly sure you're wrong but we won't fall out over it'."

After reading the chapters of her book which gave an account of an idyllic children's summer in Kerry, the church broke out in applause.

Emma was buried with her mother in Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Belfast Telegraph


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