PROTESTERS who forced the cancellation of a controversial euthanasia lecture have been branded “religious zealots” whose actions should be condemned.
Fianna Fáil city councillor Terry Shannon launched the blistering attack, after proposing the city council pass a vote of congratulations to the Cork University Hospital (CUH) Ethics Forum which organised the lecture.
He branded “disgraceful” the actions of the angry group which heckled and jeered senior British medical ethics expert Professor Len Doyal at CUH last Thursday night.
Prof Doyal had been invited by the CUH Ethics Forum to deliver a lecture on euthanasia in the hospital’s lecture theatre. The invitation sparked national controversy and the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, slated euthanasia or the voluntary ending of life as wrong, saying: “The Lord alone is the giver of life and He alone has the right to decide when that life should end.”
Prof Doyal was visibly shaken after his lecture couldn’t start when a group of about 20 pro-life protesters shouted him down. The protesters, some from the right-wing Youth Defence group, shouted that euthanasia was state-sponsored murder and some began chanting the Rosary.
At one point, a protester shouted abuse directly into Prof Doyal’s face.
Gardaí were in the room but did not intervene. The lecture was abandoned amid chaotic scenes and Prof Doyal was escorted from the room by private security.
Speaking at Monday night’s council meeting, Mr Shannon condemned the protesters. He said, while some might not agree with the subject matter of the lecture, the forum should be commended for trying to have the debate.
But he said the way some people had “rammed their own beliefs down other people’s throats” was disgraceful.
“The day we cannot have free speech in this city is a day we should never have. I condemn the actions of those who wish to stifle debate,” he said.
CUH Ethics Forum chairman Dr Fergus Walsh said the invitation was extended to Prof Doyal to promote an active discussion about the controversial subject.
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