Vicky Phelan: ‘Taoiseach is all talk, no action’ on cervical controversy

Campaigner criticises Varadkar but praises Simon Harris’s efforts in wake of scandal

Vicky Phelan: Varadkar “doesn’t inspire me with confidence”. Photograph: Collins Courts

Vicky Phelan: Varadkar “doesn’t inspire me with confidence”. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Cervical cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan has strongly criticised the Taoiseach over the Government’s response to the needs of cervical cancer patients since she exposed the CervicalCheck controversy last year.

Ms Phelan was speaking on Saturday night before she was awarded the Fitzgerald Bible Bruff Award for 2018.

She praised Minister for Health Simon Harris for his efforts to improve screening standards and provide better treatment for cervical cancer patients.

“At least you know that there is a willingness there, where there isn’t in other [Government] parts,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have that same confidence in the Taoiseach, put it that way. He doesn’t inspire me with confidence.

“I think he is very much ‘all talk’ and ‘no action’, and I just don’t get [the] sense that he thinks this is as important as what it is really, when you consider half the population in the country are women, and every woman in this country has to have a smear.”

In response, a spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: “The Taoiseach has the highest regard for Vicky Phelan. When they met last year he was impressed by her courage, and by her commitment to the CervicalCheck programme. Her input and advice continues to guide the Government’s response.

“The Taoiseach and Government are very much guided and act on the advice of [Mr] Harris when it comes to CervicalCheck as he is the line Minister dealing with it.

“The Taoiseach, like Vicky, has said he wants something good to come out of this controversy. That means implementing the Scally report in full and working to ensure that cervical cancer becomes a rare disease through the expansion of the HPV vaccine to boys, and improving screening by becoming one of the first countries in the world to bring in the new smear test. The Taoiseach and [Mr] Harris working together have ensured both these things will happen this year.”

Ms Phelan who settled her legal action for €2.5 million over a 2011 false negative smear test.