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Tuesday 3 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Sam Boal/ Vicky Phelan
# CervicalCheck
'A lack of respect': Vicky Phelan hits out at TDs who didn't attend formal Dáil apology
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One today, Phelan said she was “annoyed” that the apology was delayed.

VICKY PHELAN HAS said she is “very disappointed’ the Dáil chamber wasn’t full for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s formal apology to women affected by failures in the CervicalCheck programme yesterday. 

Speaking in the Dáil, Varadkar apologised to the women, their partners and their children for the pain they suffered as a result, and acknowledged that a State apology “may not provide closure but it I hope it will help to heal”.

Issues with the screening programme emerged after a High Court case taken by Phelan last year.

The Limerick woman and others, including the late Emma Mhic Mhathúna, became advocates for the women affected by cervical cancer.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One today, Phelan said she was “annoyed” that the apology was delayed over the ongoing “buttongate” controversy. 

“That really annoyed me, I was sitting there thinking that all of these politicians knew there were women and families sitting in the gallery waiting for this apology and some of them didn’t think it was important enough to start on time,” she said. 

“I was very disappointed to see that it wasn’t more full. It was full for Enda Kenny’s apology to the Magdalene women and everybody has a mother, a daughter or a sister and they all should have been there are far as I’m concerned,” Phelan went on to say. 

‘A lack of respect’ 

In the Dáil yesterday, Varadkar acknowledged that the apology was too late for some of those who were affected.

“For others it will never be enough,” he said.”Today’s apology is offered to all the people the State let down. And to the families who paid the price for those failings.

“A broken service, broken promises, broken lives – a debacle that left a country heartbroken. A system that was doomed to fail.

We apologise: to our wives, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers – to the men who lost the centre of their lives and who every day have to try and pick up the pieces. The single fathers and grandparents.

“To the children who will always have a gaping hole in their lives. To all those grieving for what has been taken from them. The happy days that will never be. A State apology may not provide closure, but I hope it will help to heal.”

When asked today if the empty seats in the Dáil chamber bothered her, Phelan said those missing had shown “a lack of respect”.

“These are our elected representatives.  I would say to the people who weren’t there, to their constituents, remember that when voting and election time comes around, and these people didn’t see fit or see it as important enough to be there…for what, an hour? These things are a big deal for people, and more people should have been in the chamber for it.”

Phelan said that the formal apology itself meant an awful lot: ”I really do think that it can help a lot of people to move on with their lives. It’s not going to change things, it’s not going to bring their loved ones back but I did think the apology was more than what we were expecting.”

Dr Gabriel Scally, who was tasked by the government with examining the screening programme, found that there were failures “from top to bottom”.

Following the apology, the CervicalCheck patient support group, 221plus, yesterday described the Taoiseach’s acknowledgement on behalf of the state as a “watershed moment”. 

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