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'She was a gentle soul who loved the simple things': Vicky Phelan on the late Ruth Morrissey

CervicalCheck campaigner Lorraine Walsh said Morrissey’s death marked “a very sad day” for the women of Ireland.

Ruth Morrissey pictured outside the High Court in Dublin in May 2019.
Ruth Morrissey pictured outside the High Court in Dublin in May 2019.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Jul 20th 2020, 11:04 AM

A NUMBER OF women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal have been paying tribute to Ruth Morrissey, whose death at the age of 39 was confirmed by her family yesterday.

The Limerick woman won a case against the HSE and two laboratories that examined her cervical smear tests. It led to more than 200 women eventually learning that they were affected by incorrect smear test results.

Speaking this morning, Vicky Phelan said that Morrissey was a “gentle soul” who “loved the simple things”.

“She was a real homebird. She just loved being at home with Libby, her daughter,” Phelan told RTÉ’s Today with Sarah McInerney

One of her big regrets this year was that Libby didn’t get to make her Communion with Covid, that’s really what had been keeping her going over the year from the start of January, getting the Communion dress, the shopping and making a big deal out of it for her. Because she kind of knew that this might be the last thing that she would do.

“I remember last year when my son made his Communion it was the same, you kind of wonder, am I going to make this big thing? So for Ruth, that was the Communion this year and I just kind of felt so sorry for her when she didn’t get to do that. 

“It made it very difficult this year with Covid, not to be able to visit her,” Phelan added.

“Because I would have visited her quite regularly when she was in Milford Hospice, because it’s only down the road from me. I remember saying to [her husband] Paul that it’s terrible that I can’t come in and visit her and take on some of the load, but there was nothing that anybody could do.

She was a real gentle lady, there’s no other way to describe her, she’s a gentle soul, she was very positive. She’d always send those little butterflies and things and always asked about the kids and just loved the simple things. And spending time with her daughter that was her priority.

“The last message I had from her was probably about two to two and a half weeks ago from her herself and she was in great form, considering what she was facing into you know, she’s always very positive.” 

182018-cervical-cancer-controversies Vicky Phelan speaking in Government Buildings in 2018. Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

High Court

Another of the women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal Lorraine Walsh also paid tribute to her friend.  

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Morning Ireland earlier today, Walsh said Morrissey’s death marked “a very sad day” for her husband Paul, daughter Libby and other family members, as well as the women of Ireland and those affected by the controversy.

“Ruth was a kind, gentle lady, she was a real lady, such a lovely person, and never a complainer but, you know, she fought a really hard battle for herself, and for all the rest of us. But sadly she lost that battle to this horrible disease that is cervical cancer, it’s just a disgusting disease.”

Walsh said that, as well as fighting her own battle, Morrissey “did so much for the rest of us”.

“The State battled with her every day of her life for the last two years. They brought her into the High Court, but she proved that CervicalCheck and the State had let her down and there was a breach of duty of care.

“They fought her again and they brought her to the Supreme Court. And she proved it yet again that there was a breach of duty of care which ultimately cost her her life.”

Walsh said she was sad that Morrissey “had to spend so long of the last two years of her life fighting for what was right and fighting for the truth, and fighting for justice, when she should have been spending that time with her lovely husband and her gorgeous daughter Libby”.

‘She achieved so much’

Morrissey was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014. After recovering initially, her cancer returned in 2018 and became terminal.

The results of an audit from the labs responsible for testing the slides revealed there were a number of incorrect test results, including Morrissey’s tests, and those of more than 221 other women.

The HSE was ordered to award damages to her for not notifying her of the results of audits of her 2009 and 2014 smear tests.

Last year, the High Court awarded Morrissey and her husband €2.1 million in damages.

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Morrissey passed away yesterday morning at Milford Hospice with her husband Paul by her side, a family statement said.

“Though just 39 years old, Ruth achieved so much in her life and chief among those accomplishments is the love she and Paul shared and the wonderful daughter they brought into this world and raised with love,” the statement said.

“Ruth had a sparkle to her smile, her wit and her intelligence. That sparkle made her wonderful company and her friendship was a gift she gave generously to anyone who knew her.”

The statement continued: “Despite the magnitude of the harm caused to her by avoidable errors, despite the broken promise of a Taoiseach who said no other woman would have to go to trial, despite using Ruth as a test case through the final years and months of her life, neither the HSE nor the State has ever apologised to her, and now it is too late.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was among those to pay tribute to Morrissey yesterday.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of Ruth Morrissey’s passing this afternoon. Ruth was a brave, courageous woman who worked tirelessly for others and for future generations of women in this country.

“She was generous of spirit and had the interests of others at heart. I wish to extend my sympathies to her husband Paul, her daughter Libby, her family and friends.

“May she rest in peace,” he said in a statement.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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