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NWC remembers Vicky Phelan, calls for healthcare system fit to honour her memory

Published: Monday, November 13, 2023

Ahead of the anniversary of Vicky Phelan’s death on 14 November, the National Women’s Council (NWC) sends our deepest sympathies to her family at this time. We are also calling on government to honour her memory by ending what the Scally Report called a ‘paternalistic approach’ to women’s healthcare in Ireland.

In a 2019 speech which NWC has released, Vicky Phelan says:

“I want to make sure that we have a health system that is something that I can trust to leave behind, that if [my daughter] develops anything over the years, if I'm not here, that there's a healthcare system that I can say with hand on heart, I've helped to make it better for her and for all of the other girls.”

NWC Director Orla O’Connor said

“Vicky was a trailblazer, a woman of incredible courage, who stood up for what she knew to be right. Because of her, the Cervical Check system was overhauled completely. Nonetheless, women’s healthcare in this country continues to be neglected. Budget 2024 was sorely disappointing on this score, and the lack of investment to develop services will be disproportionately felt by women from marginalised groups, like disabled women, Traveller and Roma women, migrant women and trans women.”

NWC particularly calls for the accelerated implementation of Sláintecare, and the provision of universal healthcare. To build on the work of the Women’s Health Taskforce, we call for a Women’s Health Action Plan which goes beyond 2023 and includes the expansion of the free contraception scheme, the publicly funded IVF scheme, and specialist menopause clinics.

We call on government to implement the recommendations of the independent review on abortion, ensuring that ongoing barriers to care like criminalisation, geographical gaps, and the 3-day mandatory wait are removed.  

We call for investment in women’s mental health and the adoption of a gender-sensitive approach in the delivery of all services and supports Meeting the mental health needs of all women and girls includes the establishment of a Mother and Baby Unit. This would provide specialist in-patient care for women with severe or complex mental health difficulties, allowing them to remain with their baby. This continues to be a critical missing piece of our specialist perinatal mental health model of care.  

NWC acknowledges the positive changes to improve the CervicalCheck screening programme in recent years. We await the planned announcement on 17th November of Ireland’s target date of cervical cancer eradication and an accompanying action plan for increasing uptake of the HPV vaccination.  

Crucially, we call on government to amplify the voices of women and girls in the design and implementation of all health policy and service delivery. The above measures are critical to fulfilling Vicky Phelan’s wish for a healthcare system which serves the health needs of all women and girls.




Find here a link to Vicky Phelan’s speech at FemFest 2019

For comment: Orla O’Connor

For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator on sineadn@nwci.ie


About NWC

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190 member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.

This year we celebrate 50 years since our foundation with a special calendar of events and campaigns.

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie