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'The women of Ireland deserve better, I deserve better': CervicalCheck patient advocate responds to criticism

CervicalCheck patient advocate Lorraine Walsh has said that she will continue to fight for the women of Ireland following the revelation that she received a letter of criticism from the Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer.

The details of the letter sent to Ms Walsh by Dr Tony Holohan emerged last week following a freedom of information request by Labour's Health Spokesperson, Alan Kelly who Ms Walsh called "a consistent supporter and a rock to us".

The letter dated March 13 accused Ms Walsh of making false statements on Twitter and in the media when she criticised the management of the CervicalCheck crisis.

Ms Walsh took to Twitter to address the controversial letter saying: "I'm not going to let anyone, no matter what office they hold distract me from my work, this work is for the women of Ireland and that is more important than any one person or their position".

In her statement, she recalls being asked by Dr Gabriel Scally to ask if she would like to be one of two patient representatives on the CervicalCheck Steering Committee.

"Honestly I had no idea what was involved and maybe if I had I would have said no, but in my innocence I accepted the voluntary role."

Ms Walsh took on the role, alongside fellow patient representative Stephen Teap, just weeks after her own CervicalCheck "nightmare" began.

She said that together the pair are looking to find answers to the many questions that they and other women and families have.

Ms Walsh said that this quest for answers has involved revealing a lot of intimate and private details about herself and "criticising poor decisions of the past and often being the one that is not in agreement with the status quo".

"What would be the point of asking patient representatives to engage in the process if not to ask them to challenge the flawed system in place?" asked Ms Walsh.

The patient representative role is not to give deference to the establishment that has failed Irish women and their families but to question it and expose its weaknesses in order to strengthen the system.

She said that fighting for answers has been rewarding as well as difficult and that is has helped her to come to terms with the knowledge that her life could have been very different.

The work is something she is passionate about and has become her vocation.

This role is challenging and emotionally charged, but I am consumed by it, I live and breathe it morning, noon and night.

Ms Walsh said that surviving cervical cancer has taught her how to dig deep when things get tough.

"When you stare down the barrel of cancer you discover new strengths and resilience which shifts the focus of your life forever," she said.

She vowed that she would not allow "vested interests" to derail her from the important work she is doing along with other patient advocates.

"I will continue to stand up and fight for the women of Ireland, and their health and for respect for women, the women of Ireland deserve better, I deserve better."