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Primary health care should not carry a price tag



According to Minister for Health Simon Harris, “We are making history,” with the introduction of last week’s Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in the Dáil. And, whatever your views concerning the introduction of abortion services in this country, it’s true that, since last May’s referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment, we are indeed making history by legalising this, shall we say, ‘medical procedure,’ making it available, without any cost barrier, for those who want it or who need it.

  However, in our already overstretched and over stressed joke of a healthcare system, which is about to enter the usual annual winter trolley-crisis cock-up, and where over 718,000 patients, many of them elderly, are agonisingly waiting on a hospital appointment, I’d like to ask if, given the obvious sensitive against-the-clock nature of undergoing a pregnancy termination, does this mean this service will now be taking priority over other services? And if so, in light of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association’s annual conference which was held in our neighbouring county Galway last week, and where president Dr. Donal O’Hanlon told us there is a ‘chronic shortage of consultants, beds and other facilities in the health service,’ with five hundred permanent hospital consultant posts remaining ‘unfilled,’ I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask how deluded does Simon Harris have to be to believe this new free abortion initiative, (vital though it is), will run smoothly?

  Thankfully, I have never been in a so-called crisis pregnancy situation, (although I was a teenage mother), I do understand there are a million reasons why a woman chooses to terminate her pregnancy, and I’ve always tried to remain wholly objective when writing about this very emotive and heartbreaking subject because while I know it’s a personal decision, I also believe it’s an extremely painful one.

  Over the years, I have personally supported, held the trembling hands, and shed what seemed like the perpetual tears of despair with friends who have undergone terminations. I have equally held the hands and shared in the overwhelming anguish of those who have fought tooth and nail to either become pregnant or indeed, to carry their precious babies to full term. And so, with total impartiality, and I hope, sensitivity, I’d like to say that if accessing our new abortion services will not carry a price tag, (which is perfectly acceptable), I would fully agree with those who call for any costs relating to maternity services, which are also equally a major part of our primary healthcare system, to also be universally available to those who need it. I mean fair is fair after all! However, the question still remains…where is all the money coming from Simon?

  Mind you, I’d say all in all, last week was quite a busy time for our little nation with the introduction of the controversial legislation that brings stringent rules and regulations around the sale of alcoholic drinks passing through all stages of the Dáil, thus   paving the way for Big Brother to introduce procedures around placing cancer warnings, minimum unit pricing, advertising restrictions, a broadcasting watershed, and the segregation of the aul uisce beatha etc., from other products in supermarkets in the vain hope it’ll reduce our alcohol consumption.

  Now while this Bill, described by Simon Harris  as  being “ground breaking legislation,” clearly represents a milestone for this country, (and given it has been before the Oireachtas since 2015, I’d say he’s delira to see the back of it), I do agree and empathise that, in many Irish households, (not all), alcohol consumption has caused enormous devastation to families; however, while this highly significant legislative step might make it look like our government is doing something, it remains my opinion that moderate alcohol consumption in a reasonable manner will not negatively affect our society.

  So Simon, instead of banning the booze, and treating us all like inebriated dipsos, why not become proactive in rolling out a comprehensive education and advocacy service regarding its misuse and abuse?


We owe Emma a debt of gratitude


She could have spent every waking hour she had with her family, however, the heroine that was Emma Mhic Mhathúna whose cervical screening slides were misread, resulting in a failure to pick up abnormalities leading to her being diagnosed with cervical cancer, used what precious little time she had left on this earth to fight for social justice for women like you, me and her five babies. This young mother of five, this boundless warrior, had a singular determination to fight the battle for truth, and fight she did; however, last week, Emma died without ever managing to secure the one thing she strove to achieve…full and unconditional accountability for her devastating circumstances. You see, despite the fact negligence was proven, liability was admitted and she received a settlement of €7.5m; today, as I write, CervicalCheck has still not ordered an investigation to ascertain what went wrong with the entire programme!

  While I feel absolutely heartbroken for Emma’s family, and for the 221 other women directly affected by this devastating cancer scandal, (however it’s likely that not all of these 221 women at the centre of this debacle who got wrong test results are victims of negligence), I must point out that the importance of the CervicalCheck screening programme should never be underestimated.

            I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; I believe, beyond a doubt, that a routine CervicalCheck saved my life; it picked up my, let’s call them, ‘invasive’ cells, and I would urge all women not to lose confidence in this vital service. 

  Emma Mhic Mhathúna made an enormous impact on this world, one that far transcended her fight for the truth. Never hesitant to speak her mind, this eloquent human being effortlessly traversed the worlds of  motherhood and influential activist; may she rest in peace.



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