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Picking Up the Threads: Remaking the Fabric of Care Maternal Deaths Remembered Exhibition (3rd-10th Feb)

3 February 2017 @ 18:30 - 10 February 2017 @ 17:00

Picking Up the Threads: Remaking the Fabric of Care Maternal Deaths Remembered Exhibition

Opening and Panel Discussion

Friday 3rd February 2017

6.00 – 9.30p.m.

Institute for Lifecourse and Society, Upper Newcastle Road, NUIG

Come see the multimedia exhibition commemorating the lives of women who have died in our maternity services

Opening by Fionnuala Gallagher, NUIG Arts Officer. Includes the screening of the documentary ‘Picking Up the Threads’ which tells the stories of the women’s families and of our campaign. Join us afterwards for our panel discussion ‘Why are women dying and what we can do about the failures in our maternity services?’ chaired by Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUIG

Between 2008 and 2014, there were inquests for eight women who died in our maternity services, all of which ended in verdicts of death by medical misadventure. This multimedia exhibition commemorates the lives of these eight women. It also honours the women who died and whose names we do not know and who are recorded only as statistics in annual clinical reports from our maternity units and hospitals.

An inquest is not automatically granted when there is a maternal death. We believe that this must be changed and so we are actively campaigning for automatic inquests for all maternal deaths to be included in the new coroner’s bill.

This will be a welcome opportunity to advance the campaign about maternal death inquests and to engage with the key reproductive justice challenges facing anyone who encounters our maternity services.

There are many challenges:

  • between 2011 and 2013, there were 27 maternal deaths (MDE Bulletin, UCC 2015) there were inquests for only three of the women who died
  • in 2014, there were 365 cases of severe maternal morbidity reported
  • our data coverage on severe maternal morbidity is incomplete; only 18 of our 19 maternity units participated
  • between 2007 and 2015, the HSE incurred 66 million euros in legal fees arising from maternity cases involving serious injury and death to either or both women and babies
  • between 2007 and 2015, the HSE through the State Claims Agency paid out €282,883,052 for maternity cases
  • significant understaffing of midwives and doctors is an acute problem across the state
  • reports and reviews are either not made available publicly or badly delayed as with the review of adverse incidents in Portiuncula Hospital which was meant to be available by mid-2015

The legislative campaign for maternal death inquests is a crucial step in gaining more public accountability. It has been led in the Dáil by TD Clare Daly who has worked closely with the members of the Elephant Collective to secure this vital change.

We also have the support of both Clare County Council and Sligo County Council. We are very thankful to Clare County Councillor Mary Howard (FG) and Sligo County Councillor Michael Clarke for securing the support of both County Councils.

Our panellists include Councillor Mary Howard, European Court of Human Rights legal expert Fleur van Leeuwen, Dr Mary-Pat O’Malley, speech and language therapist, NUIG, Dr Jo Murphy-Lawless, sociologist and author, Wendy Lyon, solicitor, who represented Ms B in the recent High Court case against the HSE and Jeannine Webster, Irish Midwives Association.

We invite Galway City and County Council along with local TDs to join our campaign and secure automatic inquests for all maternal deaths. There are countries in the EU who have significantly better maternal health outcomes than we have. We need greater accountability, a truly outstanding system of audit and genuine open disclosure. It is vital to have automatic inquests for all maternal deaths to help improve our maternity services.

The exhibition, documentary and panel discussion will be hosted by The Elephant Collective. We are a group of educators, midwives, student midwives, birth activists and artists. We called ourselves The Elephant Collective because when the elephant is giving birth, the herd surrounds her to keep her and her calf safe. We came together in 2014 with the main aim of raising public awareness of:

  • the tragedy of maternal death
  • the need for legislation to ensure an automatic inquest following all maternal deaths
  • the need for vastly improved disclosure of hospital and HSE reporting on tragic and adverse incidents in our maternity services to make then fully open to public scrutiny

Our multi-media exhibition includes:

  • a knitted quilt, made by over one hundred contributors from across the island of Ireland and beyond
  • the documentary, ‘Picking up the Threads’, which has been made about this project by filmmaker Anne-Marie Greene
  • portraits of the eight women commemorated by Clare artist Martina Hynan
  • a framed cross-stitch panel of the names of the eight women by Donegal craft knitter Louise Crossan
  • an audiovisual artwork entitled ‘Silent Killer: a timeline of the death of Savita Halappanavar’ by Laura Fitzpatrick
  • knitted works donated to the exhibition by local knitting groups in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal and Ennistymon, Co. Clare
  • a national petition to the Minister for Justice to secure the amendment for a legal inquest in the face of all maternal deaths
  • the chance for groups to meet in the course of the exhibition and chat about what is needed to improve maternity service

The Exhibition runs until 10th February 2017. All Welcome

For further information, contact:

Dr Jo Murphy-Lawless

Martina Hynan

Doreen Fitzmaurice


Find the Elephant Collective at and

View the trailer for the documentary:

The exhibition also has a Facebook Events Page:

See also the Irish Midwives Association


Background Information

Tania McCabe – died 9 March, 2007, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital

Evelyn Flanagan – died 19 October 19, 2007, Mayo General Hospital

Jennifer Crean – admitted to National Maternity Hospital, 30 June, 2008, transferred in a

coma to Beaumont Hospital, 2 July, 2008, died 10 February, 2009

Bimbo Onanuga – died 4 March, 2010, transferred from Rotunda Hospital to the Mater Hospital

Dhara Kivlehan – transferred from Sligo General Hospital on 24 September, 2010 died 28 September, 2010, Belfast Royal Victoria Hospital

Nora Hyland – died 13 February, 2012, National Maternity Hospital

Savita Halappanavar – died 28 October, 2012, Galway University Hospital

Sally Rowlette – died 5 February, 2013, Sligo General Hospital


Groups who have contributed to the quilt

AIMSI, AIMS UK, Clare Birth Choice, Community Midwives Association, Cuidiú, Donegal Women’s Centre, Doula Association of Ireland

Gentle Birth Ireland, Home Birth Association of Ireland, HypnoBirthing Ireland, Kilkenny Library Knitting Circle, Letterkenny Breastfeeding Support Group, Midlands Birth Gathering Circle, Midwifery students, Trinity College Dublin, Neighbourhood Midwives, St. Johnstone Breastfeeding Support Group, Organising Members of the Elephant Collective, Fatimah Alaya, Doreen Fitzmaurice, Anne-Marie Greene, Kate Harris, Julika Hudson, Martina Hynan, Caroline Kiernan, Ann Maxwell, Mary Moynihan, Jo Murphy-Lawless, Bridget Sheeran, Mary Smyth


3 February 2017 @ 18:30
10 February 2017 @ 17:00
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