Vicky Phelan seeks further cancer treatment options as new tumour is discovered

Campaigner vows to keep fighting for changes in CervicalCheck tribunal approach

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan has said she must continue looking for cancer treatment options after discovering a new tumour in her lung.

The Limerick mother is determined to keep fighting for what her campaign group 221+ believes is a fair tribunal approach to deal with the CervicalCheck controversy her own legal case first exposed.

One amendment campaigners want to the current structure is to ensure that any woman whose cancer comes back can return to the tribunal to claim further costs, as had been the case with HIV and hepatitis compensation schemes.

“We know from cervical cancer that if it does come back; it is fatal, it is as simple as that,” she said.


"We have seen it with Ruth Morrissey (who died in July), we've seen it with Emma Mhic Mhathúna (who died in 2018). I'm going to see it; my cancer is back and I'm literally just buying time, that's all I'm doing at this stage. I am going to die, I know that."

Ms Phelan explained that although her cancer had never gone away – rather it had remained stable – the recent discovery of a tumour is the first in over two years.

“Women do not survive if it comes back. That’s all we’re asking for, is to allow those women who are taking cases who are currently cancer free, who are in remission to be allowed to go back [to the tribunal] if their cancer comes back,” she told RTÉ’s Drive Time programme on Monday.

In recent days Ms Phelan said she felt "betrayed" by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly for his formal establishment of the CervicalCheck tribunal despite assurances it would be delayed.

She said issues around the tribunal are ongoing and her group is currently consulting its members and getting legal advice.

“We were given assurances by the Minister. . . that he would pause the tribunal so it was very, very disappointing to us that the order [for it to begin] had been assigned and it couldn’t be stopped,” she said.

“I think that’s what people, including the Minister, forget; that this tribunal is designed to meet the needs of the women and families affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.”

In relation to her own ongoing battle against the disease, Ms Phelan said there are not many treatment options but she remains determined to fight for the right tribunal terms before stepping back to focus on her health.

“This is a disease that affects very young women with young families,” she said. “All of these women are leaving young children behind, or in some cases [they are] women who have not had the opportunity to have families, so why wouldn’t I try and do as much as I can to try and help as many women as I can [to] not go through what I’m going through? It’s as simple as that.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times