From top: Vera Twomey; Terry McMahon
Yesterday, Minister for Health Simon Harris granted Ava Barry, age seven, a special licence to be prescribed medicinal cannabis at her home in Cork.
Ava suffers from Dravets Syndrome and her parents Vera and Paul say cannabis oil, prescribed in The Hague where the family moved in June, has helped preventtheir daughter from having seizures.
Before going to the Netherlands, Vera took a well-publicised trip to Spain to secure the oil and take it back to Cork.
Terry McMahon writes:
Got a text late one night. Someone was looking for my number. Was it okay to pass it on? Anybody who wants my number can have it. Couple of minutes later the phone vibrated. Rarely answer the thing at night but this was different. She introduced herself. Voice unmistakable. Softer than I’d heard it on television.
But those circumstances were different. I wasn’t trying to rob her daughter of life-saving medicine. That was the first time I spoke with Vera Twomey. Five hours later we were standing on a security line waiting to board a plane to Barcelona.
Sitting in the airport that morning with Vera and her husband Paul should have been uncomfortable. Should have felt awkward. Should have had some kind of logic to make the three of us feel like we knew what the hell we were doing. But we didn’t. We were going on instinct.
A little girl was in a fight for her life against the gigantic ego of a Minister For Health. Nothing else mattered. That Minister refused to believe in miracles. Refused to believe in any power other than his own. Refused to recognize he was being given a lesson on the power of love by the parents of the little girl that he was intent on ignoring. But you don’t ignore Vera Twomey.
Paul walked us to the security gates. Me and his wife. Two strangers. A brief holiday is all. The camera hanging against my chest with the lens exposed. A tourist cliché. Paul said look after her. Out of earshot. A whisper. Humbling to shake the hand of such a man.
We were being watched as we went through security. Vera had been arrested a short time ago. Her arrest made headlines around the world. A mother’s love etched on the front page. They didn’t try to hide the fact that we were being watched either. But they didn’t know they were being watched too. The camera lens was exposed for a reason. The red light recording sound and vision virtually invisible. Hiding in clear sight.
We arrived in Barcelona. Already getting to know each other on the plane. No time for pretense. Everything from the heart. Bullshit free. We were staying in Las Ramblas. Iconic hotel. Perfect rooms. Barcelona beauty. We had less than twenty-four hours.
And every minute would be used. Some of the most remarkably humane people a soul could yearn to connect with appeared. Courageous, inspiring and generous beyond measure, these people put everything on the line to help others. And were reviled for it. Mistrusted. Criminalised. While our Minister sat on a fat salary for doing nothing.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple plan. Do the right thing. We all know what the right thing is. Most of the time. But Vera and Paul, and their incredible daughter Ava, had been repeatedly lied to by the Minister and his coterie of cowards. Then maligned. Then ignored. Then politely dragged away by police.
Vera needed a new plan. And she hatched it in Barcelona. The food tasted incredible that night. As did the wine. As did the air. That’s how bravery affects the senses. The opposite of how our Minister’s cowardice dulls them.
Back in Dublin next morning security was waiting for us. More of them than usual. Ready. I held back. Separated. Not to conceal anything. The camera was in full view. Except for the tiny red recording light. They searched her. They searched me. They questioned us. They could have been bastards. But they weren’t. They did their job. Meticulously.
But you could tell their hearts weren’t in it. Their hearts were bigger than this bullshit charade. They were mothers and fathers. They were in awe of Vera Twomey. Almost as much as I was.
That’s the impact Vera Twomey has. The impact Paul has. They make you believe corrupt politicians can be exposed. Because they just did it. They make you believe in the impossible. Because they just made it happen. They make you believe love moves mountains. Because it fucking does.
Previously: Vera Twomey on broadsheet