By Olivia Kelleher
The husband of a woman who died after she was mistakenly given the all clear for cancer laid a bouquet of flowers at Cork City Hall at the weekend as over 100 supporters of the group Women's Lives Matter group held a rally to highlight what they perceive as delays in addressing the cervical cancer scandal.
Paul Dingivan from Fermoy, Co Cork, whose wife Julie was one of the women who died before the controversy became public, attended the event on Saturday with his family. Flowers were also laid in memory of Irene Teap, Catherine Reck and all the other women whose lives were cut prematurely short in the midst of deficiencies in the Cervical Check system.
Mna na hEireann was played on the uileann pipes as the flowers were laid. The flowers were the personal favourites of Julie, Irene and Catherine. They included lilies, roses and wild daisies with a purple theme signifying the preferred colour of Irene Teap.
Stephen Teap, the widower of Irene, is among those who have sent messages of solidarity to the group.
Spokeswoman for Women's Lives Matter, Lisa Ryan Bermingham, said she is horrified at what she considers to be delay tactics by Cervical Check, the HSE and the Department of Health in providing documentation to the Scally enquiry.
Ms Ryan Bermingham says women need to continue to fight for justice and to prevent other tragedies from occurring to our sisters, aunts, cousins and friends. She is fearful that nothing will change and our children will end up having their own issues with their screenings many years down the road.
"They (the Government) are as quiet as mice. We couldn't even imagine what the families are going through. It is hard enough to lose someone if they are sick or through tragedy. But through negligence is another thing. The families must be going through a rollercoaster of emotions.
"We have kept in touch through the page and we want to let them know that we support them and are there for them. This should not have happened. This Government has stayed so silent. There have been so many delays which they promised was not going to happen."
Women's Lives Matter at Cork City Hall. Picture: Denis Minihane
Ms Ryan Bermingham says that women should accept nothing other than swift action given the suffering of such "strong women" as Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathuna.
She stressed that the ex-gratia payment of €2,000 to each impacted women fell well short of the amount needed to give them practical support at a time of great need.
Ms Ryan Bermingham said solicitors representing a number of women have also voiced their concerns regarding delays in obtaining medical records.
"All medical records need to be released immediately. In terms of the Government, Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar will be off on their holidays and we don't want this to be forgotten about come September. Leo Varadkar, Tony O'Brien and Simon Harris need to be in looking at the families to see what has happened to them."
Lisa paid tribute to the "heroism" of Vicky Phelan and Emma Mhic Mhathuna and said she was heartened to see the latter go into court in a colourful red dress in an act of defiance at a system that seems to want her to be silent.
"There are no words for people like Vicky and Emma. It is absolutely fantastic that Emma doesn't have to face the courts anymore. At least that side is sorted for her. She can concentrate on her kids now. Hopefully with the money she will get some treatment that will prolong her life. Vicky is phenomenal too. All of us as women owe this to her because none of us would have known to ask questions without her. She is a heroine."
It is understood that Emma Mhic Mhathuna got a round of applause at mass in her native Kerry over the weekend.
Women's Lives Matter plan to hold another rally next month and to march on the Dail in the Autumn. Lisa adds that the issue cannot be allowed to fade away.
"We have to keep this in the public domain. We owe it to the women. We have to stop it from happening."