'I just want to know who, when, what and why,' says widower
A father of six, whose wife died from cervical cancer on their wedding anniversary, is demanding that authorities are held accountable for the smear test scandal.
Widower Ben Lawless, from Dublin, said his wife Edel (45) died on their wedding anniversary in October 2017, four days after slipping into a coma from terminal cervical cancer.
She was among 18 women to have since died of cancer among more than 200 whose smear tests were reviewed when questions were raised about their accuracy - but were never told of the suspect results.
Mr Lawless spoke of the ongoing ordeal he and his children have been forced to endure after Edel was given the all-clear on smear tests conducted by the State's CervicalCheck programme in both 2011 and 2013.
Despite this, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2014 and succumbed to the disease despite going into remission in April 2015.
"It was the most devastating and horrible news that I've ever been given," he told RTÉ One's 'News at One' programme yesterday.
He first learned Edel was among the women whose suspect smear results were not communicated to them, despite the knowledge of health authorities, earlier this year when the scandal broke.
"I think it was probably the second week in June when I got a phone call from a woman who works at the HSE," he said.
"I asked her was she [Edel] one of the women that passed away, because obviously my wife had passed away, but she just told me that she was part of the scope of inquiry," he said.
And if it were not for Vicky Phelan, he and other grieving families would still be in the dark over their loved ones' demise, he added.
"Myself, personally, and probably a lot of other men - there's other women that passed away and their husbands have been left with children - they probably wouldn't have done anything about this," he said.
"We probably wouldn't have known what to do. I just want to know who, when, what and why," he said.
"My wife went through absolute hell for the last three years of her life, the last 12 months mainly, she went through absolute hell," he said.
As for the heartbreak he and his children are going through, he said: "I never thought I'd be a widower at 44 years of age. Just somebody has to be accountable."
He made the comments as Ms Phelan met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for the first time yesterday.
The mother of two from Limerick is now battling terminal cancer after she brought the scandal to light in April, when she was awarded €2.5m in a settlement from the US lab that incorrectly gave her smear results the all-clear in 2011.