A book of condolence is now open at City Hall in Vicky Phelan’s adopted home of Limerick.
The tricolour was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the Kilkenny mother of two who was awarded the Freedom of the City last February.
Some on the streets of the Treaty City fought back tears when asked to sum up what the cancer campaigner means to them.
Welling up, Pauline Ryan, from Dooradoyle, paid tribute: “It’s so sad, Vicky fought so hard, god love her and her family, I’ll remember her for the battle that she had and the (patients) that she stood up for, especially the ladies with cervical cancer, they had been forgotten about – Vicky put it out there.”
On the night she was made a Freewoman of Limerick, Ms Phelan, 48, despite her failing health, brought her trademark steely determination and, as she had done many times beforehand, stared down death – that was “our Vicky” people in Limerick said Monday.
Speaking at the ceremony, held at Limerick County Hall nine months ago, Ms Phelan told reporters she wanted to be remembered as “someone who asks questions…that’s really what I would advise anybody to do, so I suppose my legacy is that I would hope people would learn to stand up for themselves”.
Back on the city’s streets today, Limerick shopper Toni Kearney, of Old Cratloe Road, summed up the people’s reaction to news of the passing of their adopted heroine: “If there’s a bigger honour than the Freedom of the City, then Vicky should be given it; she deserves it because there are hundreds of women, probably thousands of women alive now, because of her.
“People are more aware, and they know not to always believe everything they (are told), to double-check everything, that’s down to Vicky, she has saved lives, that’s the truth. She was someone to be admired, may she Rest In Peace.”
Fine Gael councillor, Daniel Butler, who was Mayor of Limerick when he presented Ms Phelan with the freedom of the city, said: “From Limerick’s perspective Vicky became ‘our Vicky’, there is a love affair between the people of Limerick and Vicky and today that love is being expressed in heartbreak and hurt.
“As we try to come to terms with the loss of a colossus who has inspired us, a national heroine, a national hero, and somebody who has saved lives and changed our country for the better.”
He also paid tribute to Ms Phelan’s open support for allowing people, particularly with life debilitating and terminal illnesses, the choice to be medically assisted to die in order to end their suffering.
“Vicky has empowered us all as a people dealing with the medical system, in particular women, that has to be noted, and she has also changed our relationship with death, that was a national conversation that was created by her, which makes us a healthier society.”
“She changed Ireland for the better, she has taught us how to live our lives, and that living our lives is not just about us, it’s about the greater good as well, and that’s the way Vicky lived her life.”
Mayor of Limerick City and County paid tribute, saying Ms Phelan had “tirelessly campaigned for better healthcare for women, her search for answers uncovered the CervicalCheck scandal, and she used her voice to advocate and support other women who had been affected and were fighting for justice”.
Mayor opens Book of Condolence for Freedom of Limerick recipient Vicky Phelan.
— Limerick Council – Comhairle Luimnigh (@LimerickCouncil) November 14, 2022