Letters to the Editor: Women failed by Cervical Check do understand what happened

A reader responds to Tony Holohan's remarks on 'The Meaning of Life', while others examine issues including elder abuse, the attacks on Israel and Gaza, and Catholic Church reform
Letters to the Editor: Women failed by Cervical Check do understand what happened

Gabriel Scally published his review of the scoping inquiry into CervicalCheck in November, 2022. Jessica Ní Mhaoláin writes that Tony Holohan should be challenged with the facts as outlined in Dr Scally’s report. File picture: Brian Lawless/PA

During his recent appearance on RTÉ’s The Meaning of Life (October 15) former chief medical officer Tony Holohan made the following statement: “The reality is there is a very poor understanding of what happened in CervicalCheck, even now.”

I appreciate and respect Dr Holohan’s right to hold his own opinion on the matter. However I cannot allow his narrative to go unchallenged, having been failed by the CervicalCheck progamme myself.

As part of routine screening when I was 25, I had my sample reported as ‘normal’. Shortly after this, my health began to deteriorate and I was experiencing gynaecological symptoms, so my consultant referred me twice more for cervical screening. Three smear tests within two years on a woman in her mid 20s is highly unusual in Ireland, however all samples were reported as ‘normal’.

It was only after I underwent a radical hysterectomy at age 27 in October 2019, the histology report noted changes present in the cervical tissue tested. While this was not the main reason for such a major surgery on a young woman with no children, it was a contributing factor and should have been picked up on the smears performed prior to my surgery.

On my return home to my native Cork after surgery, I was met by a letter from CervicalCheck. They requested I attend for screening as soon as possible. I duly wrote back to them to inform them that my cervix, as well as my womb and ovaries, were now no more.


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The arrogance with which Dr Holohan maintains those of us who were failed by CervicalCheck do not understand what happened to us is astonishing. It mirrors the view held previously by men in positions of power, who considered us to be ‘silly women who don’t understand’.

If Dr Holohan is unwilling to accept the findings of the Scally Report and judgments of several high court cases, that is his decision and he is entitled to it. However, he should not have the freedom to express his opinion without being challenged with the facts as outlined by these court cases and Dr Gabriel Scally’s report.

The previous iteration of CervicalCheck (pre 2019) cost some women their lives, it cost families their mothers, sisters, and aunts. Thankfully, it only cost me treatment time. The removal of my reproductive system — while heartbreaking in the extreme — has allowed me to live a relatively normal life, albeit with some ongoing issues. I was lucky.

Finally, let me say that it is of the utmost importance for women to register and present for screening with the programme now that improvements have been made — unfortunately this did not happen in time for those of us who had our smears misread, but I have hope for the lives of the women around me I know it will save.

Jessica Ní Mhaoláin, Dublin 8

Radical changes in the Catholic Church

Despite the views of Mary McAleese, the Pope Francis-led synodal meeting in Rome may usher in radical changes, as the Church is discussing how to fully welcome divorced couples and same sex couples; how to give lay people real leadership roles; how to allow women to exercise ordained ministry such as the diaconate which would offer a clerical role for the first time. 

The priesthood which may be open to married men is limited to men for the theological reason that Jesus was a man, and the priest becomes the person of Jesus at Mass.

Despite what Mary McAleese may want, Pope Francis does not want schism within the Church, while seeing the need to place greater emphasis on inclusiveness, pastoral care, and a move away from rigid doctrinal and legalistic rules. Something Jesus of Nazareth would be proud of?

Deacon Frank Browne, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14

Elderly deserve better State care

Regarding Niamh Griffin’s story — ‘Emily’ report: ‘Highly probable’ more elderly women were abused by nursing home worker (Irish Examiner, September 22) — I am not one bit surprised that something like this could happen.

The outsourcing of care, for profit, for our vulnerable elderly people means corners will inevitably be cut. The State should hang its head in abject shame.

In my own experience, the nursing home where our mother was cared for, failed a Hiqa inspection for infection control in July 2020 (four months into covid) and had four staff working there that were not garda vetted.

The Emily story would make you think the worst sometimes. Our hearts go out to her family and any family hurt by this.

Shame on the State for not providing a world class care system for the people who built up the country.

Eamonn Brady, Phibsboro, Dublin 7

Israel does not want a two-state solution

It is most unusual for a leader of a religious denomination to publicly censure elected members of Dáil Éireann. 

Bearing in mind that Israel has been forcibly displacing Palestinians and taking their land for the past 76 years. Jewish Representative Council of Ireland chairman Maurice Cohen takes issue with members of the Dáil for not supporting Israel and condemning Palestinian militants. Mr Cohen knows fully well that pre 1947 the indigenous people of Palestine, including the 10% of the Jewish faith, lived in harmony.

All of that changed after the Second World War. Palestinians were driven from their houses and homeland. By late 1948 approximately 750,000 Palestinians were refugees in adjoining states following the “partition” of Palestine by the US, British, and French governments.

This partition was established contrary to the will of the Palestinians and ever since the new settlers, supported by the Israeli army, forcibly take over Palestinian lands and property, killing resisting Palestinians. Israel by its actions never had an interest in a two state solution.

The murder of civilians is to be condemned in all instances.

Israel with a massive army, which considers itself to be a democracy, has for 76 years carried out atrocities with western support against defenceless Palestinians.

Don Teegan, Union Hall, Co Cork

Faithful assertion

In my estimation, the greatest gift to mankind is Martin Luther’s inspired assertion: “It is by faith and not through works that we are saved.”

Pat Manton, Bishopstown, Cork

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