Vicky Phelan says Harris rang her personally to apologise

Phelan’s court case brought to light failings of the CervicalCheck screening programme

Vicky and Jim Phelan pictured with their solicitor Cian O Carroll leaving the Four Courts on Tuesday. Photograph: Collins Courts

Vicky Phelan, the mother of two from Co Limerick whose court case brought the failings of the screening programme to light, has said Mr Harris rang her personally to apologise for the errors made in handling her case.

Speaking on Saturday night on the Ray Darcy Show on RTÉ, Ms Phelan said the Minister also thanked her for encouraging people to continue to go for cervical smears.

She said she told Mr Harris she still believes in the programme and she believes cervical smears save people’s lives.

“I thought it was important to say that because people are more likely to believe me than the HSE at the moment.”


Ms Phelan also recounted how she only learned of the fact that her cancer was missed through a chance reading of her medical file while waiting for an appointment.

She settled a High Court action for €2.5 million earlier this week against a US laboratory over a 2011 smear test, which wrongly gave a negative result for cancer.

She was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and told of the false negative in the smear test only in September 2017.

Before the case came to court, Ms Phelan and her solicitor, and the HSE entered a mediation process.

However, she said, “the first things they put on the table was a confidentiality clause” to prevent her talking about the issues raised in the case.

“I was adamant I was never going to sign a confidentiality clause.”

Since her case was reported this week, Ms Phelan has been contacted by at least three of women who missed early treatment for cervical cancer, she said.

News of Dr Flannelly’s intention to stand aside elicited a bout of applause from the studio audience when it was announced during the programme.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.