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14th Nov 2022

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

“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.

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 /