Vicky Phelan’s courage in the face of terminal illness and a legal battle with far-reaching consequences have made the Kilkenny native a household name across Ireland.
Vicky was diagnosed with cancer three years after her smear test results of 2011 were incorrectly reported as being clear of any abnormalities. By the time she had another smear test in 2014 she had cervical cancer.
Vicky won her case against the American labs that worked on smear tests taken from Irish women and was awarded €2.5 million in compensation.
That might have been the end of one woman’s tragic story but Vicky refused to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement.
She realised she was not the only woman affected. She went public with her story and we all learned of the scandal.
Dr Gabriel Scally, who carried out the Scoping Enquiry in to the Cervical Check Screening Programme on behalf of the government, singled the Kilkenny woman out for praise.
In the first paragraph of his report Dr Scally praises the “extraordinary determination of Vicky Phelan, who would not be silenced”.
At a special meeting of Kilkenny County Council, Councillor Mary Hilda Cavanagh said: “Your immense courage and your deep sense of justice and civic responsibility are your hallmarks - and an inspiration to all. Cllr Eamon Aylward, added: “It isn’t every day we have a hero in this chamber, to me that’s what you are.”