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Ireland has lost ‘one of its finest citizens’

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CAMPAIGNERS The late Vicky Phelan pictured with Charlie Bird at the start of his fundraising ‘Climb for Charlie’ campaign which culminated in his climb of Croagh Patrick back in April.

Lisa Chambers joins in tributes to campaigner Vicky Phelan

Oisín McGovern

TRIBUTES have poured in from across the country for the late Vicky Phelan, who passed away yesterday (Monday) at the age of 48.
Phelan’s a death that might have been prevented had a smear test in 2011 detected abnormalities, but it gave a false negative. She was eventually diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014.
A review by Ireland’s Health Service Executive discovered the mistake from three years earlier, but no one told her until 2017. A year later, she discovered the cancer had progressed to the stage where it was terminal.
As well as being to the fore in the campaign for better cervical-cancer care, Vicky was a big supporter of the ‘Climb With Charlie’ fundraiser ,which raised over €3,000,000 for charity.
The Limerick woman was due to climb Croagh Patrick alongside Charlie Bird back in April but was too ill to do so. Instead, members of the Phelan family climbed the mountain on her behalf.
Having pledged to join the climb ‘in spirit’, the mother-of-two congratulated Charlie by phone shortly after he reached the summit.
“My heart is broken just hearing about the passing of Vicky Phelan,” the former RTÉ journalist posted on Twitter yesterday (Monday).
“Over the past year she gave me great support to keep fighting my terminal illness,” he added, referring to his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease.
“This whole country should be in mourning at the passing of this remarkable human being. My heart is broken. My hero is gone.”
Vicky Phelan’s legal action agains the CervicalCheck cancer screening service led to an independent investigation by Dr Gabriel Scally which exposed systemic flaws in the service.
Several other affected women have since taken legal action against the HSE. Many have since passed away.
Vicky’s activism led to an increased uptake of the HPV vaccine and greater awareness of the importance of early cancer detection.
Lasting legacy
Senator Lisa Chambers was among dozens of elected representatives to paytheir respects to the legacy of Vicky Phelan.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Senator Chambers said the nation had lost one its best.
“I think it’s a really sad day for the country. She was an incredible woman, she was an incredible campaigner. I think that her advocacy for CervicalCheck victims touched the lives of so many,” Senator Chambers said.
“I think her work has impacted the way that Irish women view their healthcare in terms of being stronger advocates for themselves, demanding better services, demanding accountability and transparency.
“I think she has changed the way that we as a country deal with women’s healthcare, and that will be her lasting legacy,” she added.
“She was a powerful individual, she was inspirational and I think the country has lost one of its finest citizens.”