Dublin University Gender Equality Society (DUGES) held a candle-lit vigil in Front Square this evening in memory of Emma Mhic Mhathúna, one of the women to speak out about the CervicalCheck scandal in recent months.
Speaking to Trinity News, DUGES Chairperson Clara Tatlow-Devally explained that the society “decided to hold the vigil out of respect for Emma and those that have suffered similarly to her at the hands of incompetent people”.
Mhic Mhathúna, 37, died on Sunday in University Hospital Kerry two years after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her diagnosis in 2016 followed two incorrect smear test results, placing her among 221 women in Ireland who were wrongly told their smear tests were clear by the CervicalCheck screening programme.
The vigil opened with a short speech commemorating Mhic Mhathúna and other victims of the controversy. Participants remembered Mhic Mhathúna’s fight to hold those responsible for the errors accountable, and observed a moment of silence in her honour.
Tatlow-Devally explained that despite moves towards a healthcare system that is about “minding those most vulnerable” with the repeal of the eighth amendment, the CervicalCheck controversy “shows a blatant disregard of Irish women”.
“Emma wanted to see those responsible to be held accountable so this never happens again, and we want to see that too,” Tatlow-Devally continued. “In the interest of supporting the women and people of Ireland who have suffered because of incompetence in the Irish healthcare system, we are holding a vigil tonight to show our support and share in the outrage. RIP Emma Mhic Mhathúna.”
It was revealed in May that CervicalCheck, a screening programme for cervical cancer, had conducted internal audits of many incorrect smear tests results. Most of the audits sent to doctors were not initially passed on to the women affected, including Mhic Mhathúna. 20 of the 221 women who received incorrect results have since died.
Mhic Mhathúa successfully took a case to the High Court against the HSE and the US laboratory which processes the test, receiving a €7.5m settlement. The money is to be used to take care of her five children, who range in age from two to 16 years.
Mhic Mhathúna’s death has seen an outpour of emotional responses across Ireland. Campaigner Vicky Phelan, who also received an incorrect smear test result, expressed her sorrow that two women impacted by the CervicalCheck scandal, including Mhic Mhathúna, died this weekend. A vigil is set to take place in Kerry, where Mhic Mhathúna passed away, on Wednesday.