Vicky: ‘I learned that blam­ing Gov­ern­ment gets you nowhere’

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Claire Scott

CERVICALCHECK cam­paigner Vicky Phe­lan has said she learned ‘early on’ that she couldn’t be too crit­i­cal of the Gov­ern­ment oth­er­wise ‘noth­ing would get done’.

The Lim­er­ick mother-of-two an­nounced ear­lier this week that she would be writ­ing a book about her life in the leadup to her can­cer di­ag­no­sis fol­lowed by the CervicalCheck scan­dal which she man­aged to sin­gle-hand­edly shove into the spot­light ear­lier this year. She also re­vealed she’s in the process of mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary which will fo­cus on the CervicalCheck scan­dal in more de­tail.

Al­most eight months on from her re­fusal to sign a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment with the HSE, which would have kept the knowl­edge of mis­di­ag­no­sis and de­layed re­port­ing to can­cer pa­tients a se­cret, Ms Phe­lan said she wouldn’t have man­aged to achieve what she’s achieved had she ‘rub­bished the Gov­ern­ment’.

Speak­ing with the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day, she said: ‘I have to be care­ful – tread a very thin... I can’t diss them too much oth­er­wise you get nowhere. I’ve learned that very quickly.

‘You have to have an “in” and be diplo­matic in or­der to get stuff done. I don’t think I’d have achieved as much as I have if I had been to­tally rub­bish­ing the Gov­ern­ment all the time. That gets you nowhere be­cause they won’t lis­ten. They’ll just shut down and you won’t be able to get any­where with them.

‘I work in the pub­lic sec­tor and things hap­pen very slowly. There are strate­gies you have to use to get things done so I just ap­plied the same strate­gies with what I’m do­ing with the Gov­ern­ment and Si­mon Har­ris. ‘I get on quite well with Si­mon Har­ris. He hasn’t al­ways made the right de­ci­sions but he’ll put his hands up and own up and say that he hasn’t done the right thing. ‘When I went up to meet Leo, I felt strongly that what he promised about women not be­ing dragged through the courts was to­tally wrong. We see Ruth Mor­ris­sey be­ing dragged through the courts, very ill. I had to call him out on it.’

Ms Phe­lan has been in­te­gral in en­sur­ing in­de­pen­dent enquiries were car­ried out into the man­age­ment of CervicalCheck. She also helped set up the 221+ pa­tient sup­port group aimed at help­ing women and the fam­i­lies af­fected by the scan­dal. Most re­cently, she has man­aged to secure fund­ing for women with cer­vi­cal can­cer to avail of the costly drug, pem­brolizumab, a ‘won­der drug’ which she be­lieves has vastly im­proved her con­di­tion.

The HPV vac­cine will also be of­fered to boys as well as girls from the start of the next school year fol­low­ing a HIQA in­quiry, along with pres­sure from Ms Phe­lan and other cam­paign­ers.

case: Ruth Mor­ris­sey at the High Court

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