The Vicky Phelan Portrait tour arrived in the University of Limerick on Thursday, November 23, organised by David Brennan.
The University of Limerick played host to a stunning portrait of the late Vicky Phelan this week to celebrate the Kilkenny woman’s life and her legacy as a tireless campaigner for women’s health.
The Portrait tour was started by Vicky herself, who was mistakenly told she was negative for cervical cancer in 2011. After finding out the truth about her health in 2014, Vicky devoted years of her life to raise awareness for cervical cancer and the cervical check scandal, which devastated the lives of women all over the country.
While Vicky passed away on November 14, 2022, she was able to see the beginning of the tour.
David Brennan, a childhood friend of Vicky’s, spoke to Limerick Voice at the event in UL. He now owns the portrait and organised the tour.
Mr Brennan said: “As time went on, myself and Vicky created this vision between us as to what could possibly happen with the portrait in terms of a tour, bringing it around the country telling a bigger story, keeping her legacy alive essentially. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Vicky was an alumnus of UL, so naturally the event was swimming with people wanting to pay their respects, remembering their friend and former colleague.
Vicky’s impact on UL can be seen by what University President, Kerstin Mey, had to say. “At UL, she was a graduate, a teaching, and professional colleague, plus a recipient of this institution’s highest award when she received her honorary doctorate the same year, she began her public fight for survival and for the women of Ireland,” the President said.
The 221+ support group were also present at the event. 221+ is a support group dedicated to helping anyone directly affected by the Cervical Check Screening Programme failures that emerged in 2018.
Joining the support group were several guest speakers such as Sarah Nally, a cancer patient advocate. A panel discussion also took place at the event with Liz Yeates, Marie Keating Foundation, as well as the support group, and other notable guests.
The portrait was painted by Vincent Devine.
The portrait is a triptych – defined as a painting divided into three sections.
“I knew when we saw it, we had to get it and had to bring it home to Mooncoin, to her own village, close to her family,” said David when speaking of the impact of the portrait.
In this case the three panels depict the story of Vicky’s life.
The first portrait shows a horse in full gallop, representing her before her diagnosis. The second depicts Vicky looking out from the painting with token scattered around symbolising her fight. Finally, in the third, the horse is looking back and Vickys footsteps leave the scene. A full analysis of the portrait is available on Vicky Phelan’s Portrait website.
“She’s very much present,” said David Brennan prior to the unveiling, “The Portrait itself is symbolic of Vicky being here as well.”
“If one woman or one man walks out of here today and decides to get what they’ve been worrying about checked out and saves their life that’s what Vicky wanted. But moreover, to create change and awareness so that’s what we’re doing.”