Stephen Teap is Cork Person of the Year for 2019.
The tireless campaigner for those victims of the CervicalCheck screening scandal, who lost his own wife due to the screening debacle, says he fears even further delays in checks as the government is making lots of promises but delivering very little action.
Mr Teap from Carrigaline lost who lost his wife Irene, to cervical cancer in July 2017.
A year after his wife's death, Stephen alongside fellow campaigners Vicky Phelan and Lorraine Walsh, launched the 221Plus Patient Support Group, which helps victims directly affected by the CervicalCheck screening failure, providing them with advice, information and support.
He's also one of the patient representatives on the CervicalCheck Steering Committee, whose members include representatives from the Department of Health, the HSE and the Irish Cancer Society.
In August 2019, Stephen met with Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris and was crucial in arranging a formal apology on behalf of the State to the women and families affected by the CervicalCheck scandal.
Heartfelt thanks for @mmcgrathtd from @Stephenteap for the consistent behind the scenes support. Not a dry eye in the house, after hearing Stephen’s story, and the tragedy that has changed his, and his family’s world. #CPOTY2019 pic.twitter.com/bWb3N6f9ng— CorkPersonOfTheYear (@Cork_POTY) January 17, 2020
The Irish Examiner reported earlier this week that thousands of women were given no follow-up cancer screening appointments, while more had their appointment deadlines missed due to huge pressure on the CervicalCheck services across the country.
Stephen said he and fellow campaigners were aware of a decline in the ability of the clinics to handle the workload and were concerned nothing tangible has been done to address this.
“When HPV screening comes out in the next few months we're concerned this will slow the (CervicalCheck) process even more. We want to see a firm action plan to resolve this,” he said.
When asked what level of response there had been to campaigners' requests to the government and HSE for speedier checks, he said: “There's been a lot of talk, but very little action.”
The couple have two sons, Oscar and Noah, now aged seven and four.
“I was widowed at 36. They are the reason I keep going. They're everything in the world. They're the reason I get out of bed in the mornings,” Stephen said.
Huge CONGRATULATIONS to my friend and fellow advocate @Stephenteap on being awarded @Cork_POTY You so thoroughly deserve this award for the sacrifices that you have made and for your selflessness while always thinking of others. I am SO proud of you. Enjoy the celebrations x https://t.co/3Rd5pthUvr— Vicky Phelan (@PhelanVicky) January 17, 2020
He received a standing ovation from the 250 guests at the awards ceremony which took place at the Rochestown Park Hotel.
Stephen said it was “bittersweet” getting such an accolade, but thanked all involved in the ceremony.
In an emotional speech, he said he was accepting it for the women and families who suffered from the scandal and didn't have a voice of their own.
“The most important thing is this doesn't happen to any women or their families again,” he said and personally thanked Michael McGrath TD for nominating him for the award.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said the organiser, Manus O'Callaghan, had to be congratulated for keeping the event going for 27 years, "Every time I come to this event I'm reminded of the extraordinary people Cork produces," he said.
The award judges were the Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty and the chief executive of Cork County Council Tim Lucey.