09 Dec 2021

Gallery: Kilkenny's Vicky Phelan says 'one person can make change'

Civic recognition: ‘I’m just a normal woman. A normal mother; with a normal job...’

Mooncoin native Vicky Phelan, whose story and High Court case exposed the CervicalCheck scandal, says she is just a normal person who “did one small thing”.

The mother-of-two received civic recognition from Kilkenny County Council for her bravery in highlighting issues with the cervical screening programme and her service to the people of Ireland.

She made an emotional address at the reception last Friday.

Vicky said: “I’m overwhelmed by all of this over the last few weeks. I’m just a normal woman. A normal mother; with a normal job, there’s nothing special about me.

“You don’t have to do something amazing. I refused a non-disclosure agreement because I knew it was wrong. It was one small thing.

“One person can make change. You just have to believe in it and do it.”
Vicky said she had refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement in her case after learning that she was not the only woman affected.

“I could’ve went off with the settlement and nobody would be paying for what has happened,” she added.

Vicky’s story sparked revelations that at least 162 women with cervical cancer had not been informed about CervicalCheck audit results and past false tests. She was herself given incorrect test results and is now terminally-ill with cervical cancer.

Vicky, 43, who lives in Annacotty, Limerick, took legal action after it emerged her 2011 smear test, which showed no abnormalities, was found, in a 2014 audit of smear tests on a number of women, to be incorrect.

A tearful Vicky last Friday revealed that in exposing the shortcomings in the healthcare system, she said: “The downside is my children have suffered; mam and dad too to a certain extent.

“Six weeks ago, I was almost on the way out, now I’m not. I was in so much pain but now I’m on very little painkillers,” she said.

Vicky is currently receiving experimental drug treatment. During her address to the local representatives in attendance, her family and friends, Vicky thanked Cllr Pat Dunphy, for proposing the special reception.

She added: “There’s a part of my story not getting much attention and that’s the how.

“How am I able to do what I’m doing, taking on CervicalCheck scandal and receiving treatment? The answer is because of my family, my friends and the people of Ireland. I want to thank those people.

"My husband Jim is operating as a mother, a father, chief taxi driver, it takes up a lot of time.”

“I’m not a well woman, even though I look fantastic,” she quipped to laughs and a round of applause from those present.

“To my parents John and Gaby, thank you doesn’t seem enough. I am the person I have become because of you,” a now emotional Vicky added.

She said: “I’ve had to do a lot of fighting over the last number of years. This is not the worst thing that has happened to me. You were always standing with me, fighting with me. To my friends, I’m getting by with a lot of help from my friends. Maria (Walsh), thank you.

“I’m doing this for women, for my daughter, for my two children. I’m fighting to stay alive to watch my children grow.” Vicky was then greeted with a standing ovation.

Cathaoirleach of the Council, David Fitzgerald, then presented Vicky with her civic honour and concluded the reception with the words: “The people of Kilkenny are proud of their daughter and all that she has done.” 

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