Friday, March 19, 2021

James Cox

University College Dublin Students’ Union has called for an investigation into Professor Dolores Cahill over her anti-mask comments.

Prof Cahill of UCD’s School of Medicine, who is the chair of the fringe far-right Irish Freedom Party, was an organiser of the St Patrick’s Day event at Herbert Park in Dublin 4.

Speaking in front of a crowd, she claimed that wearing masks would mean children would “never reach their IQ and job potential because their brains are starved of oxygen”.

She said that “globalists” pushed for mandatory mask wearing because “oxygen-deprived people are easy to manipulate”.

UCD Students’ Union president Conor Anderson said: “Dolores Cahill has been propagating medically-inaccurate conspiracy theories in service of a far-right political agenda throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, her words are far-reaching. Professor Cahill has amassed a huge following and exerts considerable influence over the general public who do not realise she is not an expert in virology, epidemiology, or public health.

“Cahill is using her role in UCD to position herself as an expert voice to the anti-mask, anti-lockdown far right. Many people have justifiably been duped into believing that Cahill is an expert in the field due to her links to the UCD School of Medicine, and they therefore believe her position warrants listening to. It is of the upmost importance that we as a University explain to the public that Prof Cahill has no expertise in the area of public health or virology, and we do have qualified experts in this area in UCD.

“If you require accurate scientific information on viruses, please listen to Professors in the National Virus Reference Laboratory or the Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases. Dolores Cahill does not have the expertise to inform you on Covid-19 and is merely telling you her political ideas and none of it is based on scientific research by the UCD School of Medicine.”

28/11/2020 Dolores Cahill Chair of the Irish Freedom Party with supporters at a Protest against Lockdown restrictions surrounding Covid-19 at the Custom House Quay Dublin. Pic Conor O Mearain/ Collins Photos

Mr Anderson added: “As President of UCD Students’ Union, and in light of Cahill’s continued escalation of rhetoric that endangers public health, I have written to the head of the UCD School of Medicine and the head of UCD Human Resources to request that Prof. Cahill be investigated under Statute 28 of the Universities Act 1997. This statute defines gross misconduct, in part, as ‘deliberate disregard for health and safety precautions likely to endanger another person.’ Given Cahill’s disregard for public health advice and her continued rhetoric that is putting the lives of ordinary people in danger, all while using her role in UCD, I believe this warrants investigation by the University.”

A UCD spokesperson told the Irish Examiner: “UCD continues to fully support the public health position taken by the Irish Government concerning Covid-19. This includes vaccination rollout, treatment for Covid-19 patients and societal restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

“The views expressed by Dolores Cahill are her own. They do not reflect the position of the university. Dolores Cahill is not scheduled to teach or coordinate modules this trimester.

“The university does not discuss individual staff members.”

The Irish Times reports that the module previously thought by Prof Cahill has been taken over by Professor Patrick Murray.

However, a spokesperson declined to comment on whether the move had been in response to Prof Cahill’s comments on Covid-19.

UCD second year medical student Andrew Meehan said: “The spread of misinformation in today’s society is dangerous, and even more so when it comes from a perceived position of authority. Over the past year, we have watched as the Covid-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down. During that time, many people have looked to the scientific community for guidance and a source of information they can trust. It has become increasingly frightening and angering, but sadly no longer surprising, as Professor Cahill continues to spread misinformation and unfounded claims about the Covid-19 pandemic, the efficacy of vaccines, the need for lockdowns, and social distancing.

“Cahill’s actions continue to undermine the efforts of health services and of ordinary people in Ireland and across the world who are working tirelessly to combat the spread of Covid-19.

“As a student, it is frustrating to continuously see the name of our school associated with an individual who directly contradicts public health advice and spreads these lies. We are concerned that she is damaging the integrity of our school’s name and reputation, both within Ireland and abroad.”

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