Thursday 29 September 2016

Cancer specialist at centre of RTE row refuses to be gagged

Lorna Reid

Published 12/11/2007 | 00:00

Professor John Crown was axed from the Late Late Show
Professor John Crown was axed from the Late Late Show

Cancer specialist Professor John Crown believes he will never get to the bottom of the alleged conspiracy to drop him from the Late Late show.

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But the outspoken oncologist says he will not be silenced on the "disaster" that is the Irish health service, but says he is worn out from all the controversy.

Asked if he was contemplating returning to the US given his level of frustration with the health service here, Professor Crown said: "My family is here, my patients are here but I would love to get out of here" .

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday Prof Crown, one of the country's leading cancer care experts said: "I can only go on what I know and I know that I was dropped from the Late Late show panel, but can I prove anything, I just don't know.

The consultant who works in St Vincent's University Hospital revealed that he would probably be silent for the next couple of days, but that he would not be silenced.

"I don't know what to say at the moment, I'm honestly worn out, but I probably won't stop talking, this is the toll that one pays for public advocacy," he added.

Referring to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's Dail reply last week in which Mr Ahern told Labour leader Eamon Gilmore that he would not reveal the full contents of a briefing document about the doctor, Professor Crown said "I found that very sinister".

"I haven't the resources the Taoiseach has, I know I will never find out what was in his briefing documents, but I do believe that this government is intent on maintaining a two tier health system," he added.

Prof Crown also revealed the Late Late controversy had taken its toll on him.

He said: "I have 70 patients to see on Monday, the same problems will be there tomorrow, the Irish system is formulated to be unfair, to incentivise waiting lists."

RTE has insisted there was "absolutely no outside pressure" put on the national broadcaster to drop Prof Crown from the Late Late.

But as the eminent oncologist continues to maintain he was muzzled, both Health Minister Mary Harney and the embattled HSE emphatically denied they interfered to ensure the doctor did not appear on the show.

The head of public affairs at RTE Peter Feeney said yesterday that the final decision on the composition of the panel was made jointly by television management and the Late Late show production team.

Mr Feeney said internal editorial decisions such as the composition of a studio panel were made all the time .

A spokesman for the station said that the line up for the Friday night show was reconsidered in an attempt to achieve balance.

And he dismissed as "unreal" the suggestion that the axing of Professor Crown was in any way linked to a proposed increase in the licence fee due to be announced later this week.

"If this was the case, picking such a currently controversial issue would not be the way to go" the spokesman added.

Mr Gilmore said Professor Crown was an outspoken and honest critic of the government health policies.

"It would appear to me that his removal from the programme was due directly to a fear of what he might say. This is censorship and a denial of free speech," Mr Gilmore said.

Both Mr Gilmore and Fine Gael's Health spokesman Dr James Reilly have called on both RTE and the Government to clarify the circumstances surrounding Professor Crown's non appearance on the show.

"Are we know living in a 'banana republic' where the government decides what the public can hear and what RTE is allowed to broadcast?" asked Dr Reilly.

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