Vicky Phelan receives honorary doctorate from University of Limerick

Her case brought the Cervical Check scandal to national attention

Vicky Phelan receives honorary doctorate from University of Limerick

Vicky Phelan (right) is seen as she is conferred with an honorary doctorate from UL | Image via @UL on Twitter

The University of Limerick (UL) has conferred an honorary doctorate on university alumna and former employee, Vicky Phelan.

UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald praised Ms Phelan for her selfless commitment to public service, describing her as 'an inspiration to students, staff and the wider university community.'

Ms Phelan's case brought the Cervical Check scandal to national attention in April.

The 43-year-old, who is terminally ill, settled a case against a US lab for for €2.5mn after being wrongly informed in 2011 that she had the all clear.

Three years later, a review found the results were incorrect.

She was diagnosed with cervical cancer around the same time, but she only found out about that review last year.

Her case prompted further revelations about the cervical screening programme, and Ms Phelan herself has continued campaigning to highlight the scandal.

She was joined at the ceremony by her husband Jim, her children Amelia and Darragh, and her parents John and Gaby Kelly - as well as a large group of family, friends and invited guests.

"Major impact on people's lives"

Dr Fitzgerald said: "Here at University of Limerick, we aim to instil in our students the ability to reason, to solve problems, to participate as citizens, to play their part in the social and political life of this country.

"The conferring of a UL honorary degree embraces these ideals.

"It has been awarded to just a small number of women to date, including the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson; Adi Roche and Ali Hewson, for their contribution to volunteerism; and, to Catherine Day for her leadership in the European Commission, to name a few.

"Some recipients, like Vicky Phelan are graduates of UL who have done extraordinary things, who have brought great honour to the university and to its community, and who make us proud," he said.

Dr Fitzgerald said Ms Phelan "has had a major impact on people's lives in this most difficult and precious time in her own."

"Through her courage, commitment and exceptional communication skills, she is highlighting a major issue in the Irish healthcare system.

"During all of this, Vicky has encouraged the women of Ireland to have faith and to continue participating in the cervical screening programme.

"She is an inspiration to our students, our staff and our community, she has brought great honour to the university, and for this we have awarded Vicky Phelan an Honorary Doctor of Letters".

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Ms Phelan said: "I loved my time as a student in University of Limerick and that is where I began my professional career: I never anticipated then, that I would be presented with an honorary doctorate by the university.

"It is an honour for me and one I am delighted to accept."

The citation read at the conferring ceremony by Dr Máiréad Moriarty, Assistant Dean International at the UL School of Arts, stated: "The conferring of an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Limerick is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves, nationally or internationally, in the arts, sciences, industry, sport, social service or public service.

"It is for the scale of her positive impact on women's healthcare nationally and the resulting emphasis on the central position of the patient within that service that we honour Vicky Phelan today.

"As a UL alumna and a former member of staff, Vicky Phelan exemplifies many of the traits this university endeavours to nurture in its students and staff".

"The UL community is humbled by Vicky's accomplishments, inspired by her example and proud to call her one of our own. It is a great honour for the university that Vicky accepts this honorary doctorate - the highest accolade that we can bestow," Dr Moriarty added.