Thursday 18 July 2019

'I thought she was going to get up and walk out of that bed to good health' – Ryan Tubridy speaks movingly about Emma Mhic Mhathúna

Emma Mhic Mhatuna with Ryan Tubridy. PIC: Ryan Tubridy/Instagram
Emma Mhic Mhatuna with Ryan Tubridy. PIC: Ryan Tubridy/Instagram
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

RTE presenter Ryan Tubridy has opened up about visiting Emma Mhic Mhathúna in St Vincent’s hospital ten days ago.

The young mother of five, who had been living in Baile na nGall in Kerry, passed away on Sunday.  She had been diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016, having previously received two incorrect smear results.

Tubridy had interviewed Emma on the Late Late Show in May this year and she received a standing ovation from the audience after she shared her story as one of the women at the centre of the cervical cancer scandal. 

“When she finished the interview she stayed in the green room, we stayed talking about two or three hours after the show -  that’s not common,” said Tubridy, revealing that they had stayed in touch in the months that followed.

He had planned to visit her at a coffee shop near St Vincent’s Hospital, where she was receiving treatment, ten days ago, but Emma was unable to leave the hospital, so the presenter visited her at her bedside, something he describes as “difficult”.

“She was in her hospital bed, she was talking, she was compos mentis, but she was not well, and her drug treatment – she had two weeks of ten days left on it – and if it didn’t take she was in trouble, and we spoke about that.  We had a private conversation I won’t go into,” said an emotional Tubridy.

“I got the impression she was going to get up out of that bed and walk to good health, actually.  I was completely deluding myself, probably out of hope rather than reality.”

Emma sent him a text last week to say that the drug test had not worked, and he received another text about her death on Sunday.  He shared an image of himself with Emma on Instagram with the caption, "Desperately sad to hear that Emma Mhic Mhathúna has died. She was a remarkable woman and proud mother who fought and fought until the end. Only 37 years old, hers was a cruelly unfinished life. R.I.P.".

“The amount of comments from people was very striking because I think people are fed up and I think people are very angry that somebody like her should die at the age of 37.  That’s just wrong,” he said.

“People would think about their daughters, their sisters, and their mothers and think, how did it come to this?  What class of country are we living in that this is going on, and that this is the end of the road?  I think people are entitled to be fed up to be honest with you.”

Emma’s family asked Ryan to say a few words at Emma’s funeral mass at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral on Wednesday but he is unable to attend as he will be in London ahead of Friday’s Late Late Show special. 

However, he has written a tribute at the request of her family, and he spoke to Emma’s uncle John, who he had previously met at the Late Late Show, on Tuesday morning.

“He told me that his family, Emma’s family, are bowled over and overwhelmed by the decency and the generosity and kindness of the Irish people,” he reveals.  “And that’s very special.  Irish people know when there’s something wrong and they know when they have to stand up and be counted and I think they’re pretty furious and rightly so.”

Speaking about meeting Vicky Phelan, who has also been impacted by the scandal, at RTE recently, he said, “When you meet these people you realise they’re not just headlines, they’re not just stories, they’re extraordinary women, who’d rather not be where they are, frankly.  They’d rather be shopping and working and home with the kids doing what mums and dads do.”

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