Tuesday 23 July 2019

Taoiseach distances himself from plan to 'choreograph' Emma

Emma Mhic Mhathúna, a victim of the CervicalCheck scandal
Emma Mhic Mhathúna, a victim of the CervicalCheck scandal

Shona Murray and Ian Begley

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke of his "disgust" at an unofficial Fine Gael proposal to make a terminally ill woman a "Government advocate" in the wake of the CervicalCheck scandal.

Emma Mhic Mhathúna reacted angrily this weekend to a proposal by Fine Gael publican Sean O'Connor to meet the Taoiseach and help "choreograph" the fallout from the scandal "in the Government's favour".

The businessman, who has strong links to Minister of State Brendan Griffin, sent the mother-of-five a memo which he intended to also send to Mr Varadkar. The proposal - exposed in the 'Sunday Independent' - has since drastically backfired and left Ms Mhic Mhathúna feeling "manipulated" and "shaken".

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Varadkar said: "I first read it last night; I was disgusted by it, quite frankly.

"Reading the letter today in the paper, I'm not sure if it's bonkers or bizarre or both."

He was quick to shake off any speculation he was an associate of Mr O'Connor, who is also known as Sean Ó Conchúir.

Leo Varadkar and Sean O'Connor
Leo Varadkar and Sean O'Connor

Mr Varadkar said: "I don't know Sean Ó Conchúir. I believe he's a personal friend of Emma Nic Mathúna but he's not a friend of mine, he doesn't speak to me. He's not an emissary and when I organise meetings with people, I organise them through my private office and not the local publican."

It is also understood Mr O'Connor's actions have now been referred to the Fine Gael disciplinary committee.

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

Attempts were made to contact both men yesterday, but neither had returned calls at the time of going to press.

However, a man close to Mr O'Connor said he meant no ill intention towards Ms Mhic Mhathúna.

"My phone's been ringing all day - it's just terrible shock to everyone," he said.

"All I'll say is that whatever's being said is not what happened at all. There wasn't anything malicious meant by it."

In the draft memo, it is suggested Ms Mhic Mhathúna would be willing to give the Government "positive praise" if it fast-tracked negotiations for a financial settlement.

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

"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. At this stage I believe that Emma can become that Government advocate."

Ms Mhic Mhathúna said she was shaken and rejected by the proposal: "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."

Irish Independent

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