'It's a terrifying statistic -- families need answers'
Published 19/12/2011 | 05:00
CANCER devastated the Mulvihill family. Mary Mulvihill was just 42 when she lost her brave battle against breast cancer.
She left behind her husband, John, and four young children. Almost 23 years later, Mr Mulvihill, still wonders whether his wife's condition may be linked to where they lived.
"How can you not wonder when you realise that Cobh has a cancer rate that is 40pc above the national average?" the Cork county councillor told the Irish Independent.
"It is a terrifying statistic if you are living here -- particularly when you realise the size of the toxic waste dump sitting on your doorstep," he added.
The former Labour Cork East TD said he had lost count of the number of families in the greater harbour area who had been affected by cancer.
"I think they deserve answers -- why is it that Cobh has such a high cancer incidence? It is simply too easy to explain it away by socio-economic disadvantage. If that was the case, why aren't the relative cancer rates in some of our inner city areas even higher than Cobh?"
John has spent the bulk of his life in the shadow of Cork Harbour's heavy industry -- in particular the former Irish Steel/Irish Ispat site. The toxic waste dump on Haulbowline Island is visible from virtually every part of Cobh town. For years, the steel plant's operations also dominated local lives.
"We'd wake up and come out of the house to discover a layer of fine dust covering the car. We all knew the steel mill had been working overnight -- where else would it have come from?"
His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 38 and courageously battled the condition for four years before passing away in 1988. Today, her family are determined to get answers for all those whose lives have been touched by cancer.