Monday, November 14, 2022

Kenneth Fox

Updated at 12:30

The Taoiseach has paid tribute to CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan calling her an “outstanding advocate for women across the country, and across the globe.”

In a statement released by Micheál Martin he said he was “deeply saddened at the passing of Vicky Phelan.”

“On behalf of the Government of Ireland, I extend my deepest sympathies to her husband Jim, children Amelia and Darragh, family and friends.

“Vicky was a woman of extraordinary courage, integrity, warmth and generosity of spirit.

“She made a very significant contribution to public life in Ireland and Vicky’s actions and commitment will live long in the memory of the entire nation.”

Martin said she stood up for the public interest, particularly in relation to the CervicalCheck scandal.

He called her an “outstanding advocate for women across this country, and across the globe.”

“The people of Ireland have a deep affection for Vicky, and will always hold her contribution to public life in the highest regard,” the Taoiseach said.

President Michael D Higgins also paid tribute to her saying: “It is with the deepest sense of sadness that people across Ireland and beyond will have heard of the death of Vicky Phelan.

Debt of gratitude

“All of us who had the privilege of meeting Vicky will have been struck by the powerful inner strength and dignity with which she not only faced her own illness, but with the sense of commitment to the public good and the rights of others with which she campaigned.

“Vicky, in all of this, made an enormous contribution to Irish society. Thanks to her tireless efforts, despite the terrible personal toll she herself had to carry, so many women’s lives have been protected, and will be protected in the future.

“She will be deeply missed, by all of those who were in awe of her courage, her resilience, offered not only to women but to all of us in Ireland.

It comes as earlier this morning it was announced that Vicky Phelan passed away at age 48 at a hospice in Limerick.

Chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, Averil Power said: “Today it is no small understatement to say we are poorer for the loss of Vicky Phelan, but truly richer as a nation for the contribution she so generously made to Irish life.”

She called her a “staunch champion of screening” and someone who tirelessly encouraged others to take up the offer when it was their turn.

“We owe her a debt of gratitude that we must work tirelessly to repay by ensuring that women’s health is prioritised and promoted. Vicky’s legacy demands nothing less,” she said.

As the Irish Examiner reports, she announced last October that she had returned home to Ireland from the US after the treatment she received there no longer worked.

The medical team at Georgetown University Hospital in Maryland recommended that Vicky return home to receive palliative chemotherapy.

Campaigner

The Kilkenny native never set out to be a national campaigner.

Ms Phelan was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014 three years after receiving an incorrect smear test result that failed to detect any abnormalities.

From there she underwent aggressive treatment — radiation, chemotherapy and brachytherapy — and was eventually given the all-clear.

In September 2017, during a routine checkup, her gynaecologist told her that an audit carried out by CervicalCheck found her 2011 smear test had been reported as a false negative.

Weeks later, a CT scan revealed her cancer had returned, and this time was delivered a terminal diagnosis.

Left alone with her patient file, she flipped it open and quickly realised something was wrong relating to her smear history and CervicalCheck and contacted a lawyer.

The HSE confirmed that just over 206 women here went on to develop cervical cancer after receiving an incorrect smear test result from CervicalCheck.

Courage and determination

Chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, Averil Power said: “Today it is no small understatement to say we are poorer for the loss of Vicky Phelan, but truly richer as a nation for the contribution she so generously made to Irish life.

“Vicky refused to be silent in the face of great personal challenge and the issues she brought to light changed the course of history for women in Ireland. Without her courage and her determination, others would not have known the truth behind the Cervical Check failings.”

She called her a “staunch champion of screening” and someone who tirelessly encouraged others to take up the offer when it was their turn.

“Unselfishly – and true to her trademark sense of fairness and conviction – it is the promotion of screening that is such an important part of Vicky’s legacy, which will go on to save many lives.

“Cervical cancer robbed her of her future and left her coping with severe side effects during her final years. Because of her advocacy, others will never have to go through what she went through.

“We owe her a debt of gratitude that we must work tirelessly to repay by ensuring that women’s health is prioritised and promoted. Vicky’s legacy demands nothing less,” she said.

Ms Phelan is survived by her two children, Amelia (16) and Darragh (10).

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