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Sunday 19 May 2019

I would love to see Simon Harris as a future Taoiseach - Vicky Phelan

Vicky Phelan, pictured at FemFest, the national Women's council of Ireland flagship event for young women aged 16 to 25
Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Vicky Phelan, pictured at FemFest, the national Women's council of Ireland flagship event for young women aged 16 to 25 Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Vicky Phelan, pictured at FemFest, the national Women's council of Ireland flagship event for young women aged 16 to 25 Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Vicky Phelan, pictured at FemFest, the national Women's council of Ireland flagship event for young women aged 16 to 25 Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Vicky Phelan has said that she would like to see Simon Harris as a future Taoiseach.

The Limerick woman said that Mr Harris has the qualities needed for leadership as she admitted that she has become and "accidental leader".

"To be honest, from my dealings with him, I think Simon Harris would make a great Taoiseach," she said, just days after she criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for his handling of the CervicalCheck scandal.

"He has stood up to the plate and made some tough decisions even when they weren’t popular.

"I think he has empathy and at the same time he’s honest. That’s what I think is lacking in some of our politicians.

"I’d rather if people would say ‘look Vicky, we can’t do this’ or ‘this will take 6 months.’ Promising and not delivering is worse when you’re breaking promises to people, particularly in cases like our where there are women dying," she said.

Mrs Phelan criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for being "all talk and no action", last week before collecting the Fitzgerald Bible Bruff Award.

She added today that the Fine Gael leader has broken promises to the CervicalCheck Scandal victims.

"I’m not sure if it is honesty that he [Leo Varadkar] is lacking," she said.

"I think a lot of it is dealing with things as it happens. He thinks that if he promises something, this will go away and that people are not going to follow through on it.

Vicky Phelan, pictured at FemFest, the national Women's council of Ireland flagship event for young women aged 16 to 25
Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Vicky Phelan, pictured at FemFest, the national Women's council of Ireland flagship event for young women aged 16 to 25 Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

"At the start of the year I just saw that things weren’t happening fast enough.

"We had been promised this tribunal and then it was pushed out until the end of the year and women have been in touch with me that don’t want to go to court. There’s a human story, these are not just numbers they are women."

The 44-year-old mother-of-two put the scandal in the media spotlight when she refused to sign a confidentiality clause following her High Court case against CervicalCheck in April, despite the added compensation that the clause may have brought.

Speaking about women in leadership at Fem Fest, the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s flagship event, Mrs Phelan said that she went public with her issue to help other women.

"I was trying to distill it down, as to why I did what I did," she said.

"I wanted to help other women because I knew that there were other women like me out there and it’s not like I wanted to become a leader to get this position of power. I wanted to help other women.

"It was like Russian roulette. I really thought I had a matter of weeks left. The only way I can describe it, was that, because I knew I only had a matter of weeks left at that point, when you’re faced with that kind of prognosis, nothing else matters except for doing the right thing.

"I wasn’t going to be bought.

"I’m an accidental leader. I think you just have to step up to the mark," she continued.

"It’s a hard thing to do to come out and tell your story because there’s always going to be a bit of a backlash.

"When it’s coming from your heart and when you feel so strongly about something you don’t really care about what you look like. I’m about two stone heavier than I was before I had cancer. I couldn’t give a s**t."

Mrs Phelan said that her role model as a girl was Mary Robinson and while she said that the former president’s praise inspired her to continue in her role as a leader for young women, it is for her daughter and other girls that she continues her work.

"Mary Robinson was one of the leaders I would have looked up to when I was young," she reminisced.

“In 1990, she became president and I was 15, so she would have been one I would have watched growing up. To meet her and to have her say to me that she admires what I’m doing was fantastic and it spurs you on.

"At the end of the day though, it’s the message that counts. I have a 13 year-old daughter and that’s what I’m doing all of this for. If I die, I want to make sure that something I can leave behind is a health system that I can say, hand on heart, I’ve made better for her.

"Women need to help each other out, and when women help each other out we’re better than any men. If you start making small changes the big ones will start to follow."

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