Thursday 21 February 2019

Harris would make a great Taoiseach, says Vicky

Vicky Phelan at FemFest. Photo: Damien Eagers
Vicky Phelan at FemFest. Photo: Damien Eagers

Micheal O Scannail

Vicky Phelan said she would like to see Simon Harris as Taoiseach following her claim of Leo Varadkar breaking promises to victims of the CervicalCheck scandal.

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

"To be honest, from my dealings with him, I think Simon Harris would make a great Taoiseach," she said.

"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 six months'. Promising and not delivering is worse when you're breaking promises to people, particularly in cases like ours, where there are women dying."

Ms Phelan, who criticised the Taoiseach for being "all talk and no action" recently, added yesterday 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 people are not going to follow through on it.

"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 last April, despite the added compensation the clause may have brought.

Speaking about women in leadership at FemFest, an event organised by the National Women's Council of Ireland, Ms Phelan said she went public with her issue to help other women.

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

"I wanted to help other women because I knew 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 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. 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."

Ms Phelan said that her role model as a girl was Mary Robinson.

Sunday Independent

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