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15th Nov 2022

‘Inspired an entire nation’ – Vicky Phelan’s family remember their “heart and soul”

Sarah McKenna Barry

“Her passing will leave a void in all our lives, that at this point seems impossible to fill.”

Vicky Phelan’s husband Jim, and their two children, Amelia and Darragh, have issued a statement remembering her as the “heart and soul” of their family.

The cervical cancer campaigner passed away on Monday morning, aged 48. As one of the women impacted by the CervicalCheck scandal, Phelan spent the final few years of her life campaigning to ensure that it would never happen again.

In a touching statement, her family remembered her legacy with love. It reads: “It is with an immense burden of grief that earlier today we bade our final farewell to our beloved Vicky.

“She was the heart and soul of our family unit and her passing will leave a void in all our lives, that at this point seems impossible to fill.

“We cherish the memories of a loving wife, mother, daughter and sister, whose ability to deal with the struggles of life has inspired not only ourselves but an entire nation.

“The outpouring of grief and good wishes from far and wide are truly appreciated. Funeral arrangements when made will be private, with an opportunity for people to pay their respects in due course.”

Monday saw a hugely emotional reaction for Phelan’s passing. President Michael D. Higgins was among those paying tribute to the campaigner.

President Michael D. Higgins pays tribute

In a statement, he said: “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. She will of course be missed above all by those closest to her.”

In conversation on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin reacted to the news of Phelan’s death by hailing her character and strength as an advocate for women the world over.

“I think this is very, very sad news,” Martin began. “I think she was a woman of extraordinary courage and integrity who stood up for the women of Ireland – but not just the women of Ireland, but, I think, women globally.

“To her family, to her husband and family in particular, we extend our deepest sympathies,” the Taoiseach continued.

“I think in the history of this country, I think her actions, particularly in terms of not signing a confidentiality agreement at that particular time and her statement outside the steps of the High Court will live long in the memory as an example of someone who stood up against the system and the normal conventions of actions and so on; to say ‘No, I’m not signing that, I want this revealed in the public interest’ – and she stood up for the public interest.”

Speaking to Virgin Media News a short time later, the Taoiseach insisted that his Government has delivered on the promise of a “non-adversarial” method of tracking cervical check cases.

Feature image: Leah Farrell/ Facebook split image: Sam Boal/Rolling

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