Kildare memorial garden for Cervical Check scandal victim Emma Mhic Mhathúna discussed at council meeting

Proposal should follow Council civic memorial policy, councillors advised

Henry Bauress


Henry Bauress


Kildare memorial garden for Cervical Cancer scandal victim Emma Mhic Mhathúna discussed at council meeting

The late Emma Mhic Mhatuna

The late Emma Mhic Mhathúna wanted a memorial garden created to commemorate all those who suffered due to the cervical cancer scandal, not just herself, a Kildare County Council meeting has been told.

At the monthly meeting of the Celbridge Leixlip Municipal District committee on Friday, October 19, Cllr Ide Cussen proposed that the committee “resolves to ensure that the wishes of Emma Mhic Mhathúna R.I.P.,to have a Commemorative Garden in Leixlip, be carried out”.

Councillors are generally in favour of, and will examine the proposal, but a number of issues have arisen.

Cllr Cussen said that Emma had been in contact with her over the garden, and subsequently asked another family member to continue the work.

“She wants it to mark all of the women and their families, not just Emma from Kildare,” said Cllr Cussen, adding “she wanted it to be done in Kildare”.

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The late Ms Mhic Mathúna, 37, née Duffy, passed away in Kerry on October 7. She was laid to rest in Laraghbryan Cemetery in Maynooth, where her mother is buried. She spent her earlier years living in the Oaklawn area of Leixlip, and was a past pupil of Scoil Uí Dhálaigh and Coláiste Chiaráin.

In a written report to council members, Simon Wallace, the Council’s Senior Parks Superintendent said that further to previous discussions with  Cllr Cussen, the Council “have no objections in principle” to a commemorative garden “subject to the following considerations - that a commemorative garden and the proposed site in Saint Catherine’s Park fits with the wishes of Ms Mhic Mhathúna's family.”

Mr Wallace also said that was already an earlier proposal  for a sensory garden in Saint Catherine’s Park.

“Work and fundraising on this proposal has already been carried out by a local committee prior to any discussion in relation to a commemorative garden. Both have similarities in term of landscape design and could be complimentary, but there would have to be agreement that both ideas could be combined as individual spaces for each proposal may not be possible.”

Mr Wallace said that finance to develop the garden must be identified and that any proposal “follows the council’s Civic Memorial Policy (CMP)”.

He said any work, if agreed, had to be “scheduled within the large number of existing projects and commitments the Parks Section is already working on across the county.”

Cllr Cussen said she was “slightly concerned” over the Civic Memorial Policy stipulation.

She asked they “work together and not get tied up in jargon and policy and procedure”.

Cllr Bernard Caldwell fully supported the motion, but said he thought the CMP said there had to be a 10-year waiting time before an individual memorial went up. “It will cost a lot of money,” he said and the type of design proposed was “enormous.”

Cllr Brendan Young, also supportive, asked how the proposed memorial garden would fit with the sensory garden, and if they would they be side by side.

“Would there be year on year finance?” he asked, suggesting some external or crowd funding.

Cllr Michael Coleman asked if the sensory garden proposal was at the same site. Mr Wallace said it was and that a certain amount of work had been done by the group doing that. He suggested the Emma Mhic Mhathúna proposals “be discussed with that group.”

Mr Wallace added, however: “I don’t see two gardens on the site.”

The official also said he was not going to get into a row over the proposals. “Putting this  matter in public now is not helpful,” he said.

Cllr Cussen said she did not give details to anyone of where the location would be in St Catherine’s Park. She added:”Emma wanted a site in the Celbridge-Leixlip area and I said I would look at places in that area.”

The garden would be calm and reflective, like the proposed sensory garden, she said.

Cllr Coleman said it was “a very sensitive issue”, adding that “maybe we should keep it out of the public arena” (for the moment) and get something done.

Cllr Anthony Larkin said Cllr Coleman had hit the nail on the head. He said he felt uncomfortable with the proposal at this moment.

Cllr Larkin said of the CMP. “It is there for a reason. We have to work within it.”

Cllr Joe Neville that Emma, who was in the same class as his sister, was only buried a week. “It is very quick time frame to have this discussion.”