Monday 15 July 2019

Emma Mhic Mhathuna furious at proposal she'd meet Taoiseach to 'choreograph' CervicalCheck scandal in 'Government's favour'

  • Mhic Mhathuna said that she felt 'manipulated' after FG businessman sent her a memorandum

  • Memorandum outlined how she could become a 'government advocate' for cancer patients

  • Publican Sean O'Connor sent terminally ill mother draft letter also intended for Taoiseach last week

  • Draft letter suggests Mhic Mhathuna would be willing to give the Government 'positive praise'

  • Mhic Mhathuna: 'All they are looking for is votes at the next election and I will not be bought'

Emma Mhic Mhathuna Photo: Domnick Walsh
Emma Mhic Mhathuna Photo: Domnick Walsh
Emma Mhic Mhathúna

Philip Ryan and Breda Heffernan

Cancer victim Emma Mhic Mhathuna has reacted angrily to a proposal that she would meet the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and help "choreograph" the CervicalCheck scandal "in the Government's favour".

Ms Mhic Mhathuna said that she felt "manipulated" after a Fine Gael businessman with close links to her local TD, Minister of State Brendan Griffin, sent her a memorandum outlining how she could become a "government advocate" for cancer patients.

Last week, publican Sean O'Connor sent the terminally ill mother-of-five a draft letter which he intended to also send to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Two weeks earlier, Mr O'Connor, also known as O Conchuir, had organised a private meeting between the young woman and Mr Griffin.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sean O’Connor
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sean O’Connor

In the draft letter, it is suggested Ms Mhic Mhathuna would be willing to give the Government "positive praise" if her legal case of medical negligence against the HSE could be fast-tracked.

"There is an opportunity to choreograph this situation in the Government's favour with cooperation from both sides," Mr O'Connor wrote.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna said she was shaken by the correspondence and immediately rejected the proposal from the Fine Gael activist. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, she said: "All they are looking for is votes at the next election and I will not be bought.

"I would rather die with no money because I know my kids will be looked after. I just wanted to make a change for the other women in Ireland so this can never happen again," she added.

Mr Griffin holds monthly clinics in Mr O'Connor's Tigh TP pub in Ballydavid, Co Kerry, and the local Fine Gael member also canvassed for him during the last two general election campaigns.

However, Mr Griffin yesterday denied he knew anything about the proposal and insisted he had "no hand, act or part" in composing the draft letter. "This is a private matter between Sean and Emma and I knew nothing about it and the Government knew nothing about it," Mr Griffin said.

Mr O'Connor also insisted he had not shown Mr Griffin the memo before he sent it to Ms Mhic Mhathuna.

A government spokesman said the Taoiseach was "disgusted" by the proposal set out in the letter. "The approach is insensitive and stupid, especially in light of all that has emerged," a spokesperson said. "The Taoiseach does not know this individual and has had no contact with him directly or indirectly."

Read More: The letter received by Emma Mhic Mhathuna

When shown a photograph of Mr Varadkar with Mr O'Connor, understood to have been taken in 2013, the Taoiseach's spokesman said that there had been no contact directly or indirectly "on this matter".

Two weeks ago, Mr O'Connor arranged a meeting to be held in his pub/restaurant which was attended by the minister, Ms Mhic Mhathuna and members of her family. At the meeting, Mr Griffin proposed a meeting between Ms Mhic Mhathuna and the Taoiseach which she turned down.

Yesterday, Mr Griffin confirmed the meeting took place but said he did not want to discuss details of the conversation for confidentiality reasons. He said he was always ready to offer support to constituents who find themselves in difficult situations.

Then last Friday, at 8.26pm, Ms Mhic Mhathuna received the draft letter by text message from Mr O'Connor, which he hoped to send to the Taoiseach.

"In the week of a referendum the Government can turn this challenge into an opportunity for a cervical victim to advocate the Government's steps to improve this testing journey for future patients," he wrote. "At this stage I believe that Emma can become that Government advocate despite her pain."

The letter continued: "It is inevitable, as night follows day, that Emma will receive a substantial settlement of damages from the HSE for their negligence.

"Emma does not need the pain of days on the quays in Dublin painfully giving evidence in the Four Courts.

"This Government does not need a negative media circus snowballing after another substantial financial settlement.

"This is a cut-and-dry case and the opportunity is with the Government to fast-track negotiations with Emma's representatives to reach a mutually acceptable settlement which will not create further negative publicity."

Mr O'Connor also suggested Ms Mhic Mhathuna could meet with the Taoiseach and Minister for Health Simon Harris in the "strictest of privacy" for an "honest and confidential" conversation about the cancer scandal.

"Emma can then later meet with An Taoiseach and the Minister at the Merrion Hotel for a public briefing where Emma can speak about the sympathetic approach by Government as well as their proactive approach to solving the issue into the future," he wrote.

"Emma can also outline that Leo Varadkar was not the doctor who was over the testing and he can not be blamed for this. We, as a nation, are lucky to have a doctor as Taoiseach who comprehends the medical situation and who can demand rapid corrective action for the future," he added.

He said the "action required" to receive this support from Ms Mhic Mhathuna would be for the Government to "fast-track inevitable payment of damages to Emma so that Emma can enjoy her dying days with the assurance her family can be cared for and properly reared after her premature and avoidable passing.

"The benefit to Government is a credible advocate to carry them through this storm rather than an angry gale blowing into their noses and in turn toppling a performing government", he added.

Yesterday, Mr O'Connor defended the letter and insisted he was trying to make life "stress-free" for Ms Mhic Mhathuna, who he considers a close friend. "All I was trying to do was figure out ways she could be living in her house with her kids and everything set up in place before she dies," he said.

Ms Mhic Mhathuna said she does not want to be contacted by a politician or anyone associated from here on. "That this is a human rights issue not a political 'let's gain votes' issue," she said.

Mr Griffin said the priority of Government was to help the women affected by the cancer scandal and hold people to account as soon as possible.

"There has never been and will never be any attempt within Government to seek anything in return for what should naturally be available to these women at this terrible time," he added.

Sunday Independent

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