‘Section 31’ censorship on health issues
‘Section 31’ censorship on health issues

A decision to remove whistleblower medic John Crown from the panel of a popular Irish chat show has been strongly condemned as a new form of censorship.

The 26-County Minister for Health Mary Harney has rejected claims that political pressure was applied to have the outspoken critic removed from the Late Late Show on Friday night before a discussion on Ireland’s failing health service.

The spokesman for the Minister said that during discussions with RTE, the state broadcaster, on Thursday, the view was expressed that the proposed panel was “unbalanced”.

“It was news to me when it transpired on Friday night that Professor Crown was not going on the programme,” claimed the official spokesman.

RTE also denied the change in the panel had been made as a result of political pressure and said it was due to “an editorial decision”.

Opposition parties continued to press for a more detailed explanation for the decision to drop Prof Crown.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said Prof Crown, a consultant medical oncologist at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin, had been an outspoken and honest critic of Government health policies and it would appear that his removal was due directly to a fear of what he might say.

“This is censorship and a denial of free speech. Prof Crown’s removal is especially sinister in the light of the menacing comments made by the Taoiseach last Wednesday in response to my questions to him,” said Mr Gilmore.

During exchanges in the Dublin parliament, Mr Ahern had threatened to reveal the contents of private ‘briefing notes’ on Mr Crown whichb he suggested would damage the consultant’s credibility.

Mr Ahern initially referred to information he possessed which showed Prof Crown had a “huge private practice”. Then, when challenged about personalising the debate, he said: “I have not even used the briefing notes I had.”

Mr Crown, a cancer specialist, said the dossier has unnerved him sufficiently to reconsider his position as a public advocate.

“The message that Bertie Ahern gave was that I am watching you,” he said.


Also in the Dail, Mr Ahern has again been criticised over a 14% pay rise which brought his annual salary to O310,000.

His wage increase made him one of the world’s best paid premiers, but his claim that he does not enjoy the perks of other leaders sparked further criticism in the Dublin parliament yesterday.

The pay increases announced for senior government officials have caused almost daily Opposition anger and public outrage since they were revealed on October 25.

Mr Ahern said yesterday that Irish politicians deserved higher salaries because they didn’t have access to weekend homes like Chequers for the British Prime Minister or luxury yachts which the French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has recently enjoyed.

Fianna Fail party leader Mr Ahern further disgusted his critics by recommending moderate wage increases for public sector employees.

Raising the issue today in the Dail parliament, Opposition leader Enda Kenny, said: “You preach pay restraints but you are by far and away the highest-paid world leader.”

Referring to leaders in the US, Britain and France, he continued: “You don’t have the White House, you don`t have the yachts or the private jet but you represent only four million people as against 250 million or 80 million or 50 million.”

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