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14th Nov 2022

“Extraordinary courage and integrity” – Micheál Martin leads tributes to Vicky Phelan

Dave Hanratty

Vicky Phelan tribute micheal martin

“She stood up for the public interest.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has paid tribute to the late Vicky Phelan, who passed away on Monday morning following a long and public battle with cancer.

Phelan died in the early hours of Monday morning (14 November) at Milford Hospice in Limerick.

In conversation on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin reacted to the news by hailing Phelan’s 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.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins also paid his respects, noting that Vicky Phelan “made an enormous contribution” to the country.

“It is with the deepest sense of sadness that people across Ireland and beyond will have heard about the death of Vicky Phelan,” said the President in a statement on Monday morning.

“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 tribute 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,” the President continued. “By all of those who were in awe of her courage, her resilience, offered not only to women but all of us in Ireland.

“She will of course be missed above all by those closest to her. May I express my deepest condolences to Vicky’s parents Gaby and John, her husband Jim, her children Amelia and Darragh, and to all of her family and friends.”

Former RTÉ broadcaster Charlie Bird, who struck up a friendship with Phelan this year, paid respects to his “hero” on Twitter.

“My heart is broken just hearing about the passing of Vicky Phelan,” said Bird.

“Over the past year, she gave me great support to keep fighting my terminal illness. This whole country should be in mourning at the passing of this remarkable human being. My heart is broken. My hero is gone.”

Journalist Aoife Grace Moore said that Ireland is a better place for having had Phelan as part of it.

“Every woman in Ireland owes Vicky a debt of gratitude,” Moore wrote.

“We are a better country for her being in it. This didn’t have to happen and I am devastated that it did. Rest in peace, Vicky.”

Former RTÉ 2FM broadcaster Louise McSharry praised Phelan for her resiliency and resolve.

“I have so much respect and admiration for Vicky Phelan’s refusal to go down quietly, and her unbelievably generous advocacy for other woman,” said McSharry. “Thinking of her family and all who loved her. May she rest in peace.”

Featured Imagery via Leah Farrell /

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