Cullen apologises for cancer surgeon ‘liar’ remark

ENVIRONMENT Minister Martin Cullen has apologised on behalf of Fianna Fáil to a cancer specialist who was called a liar by a party member at a council meeting.

At Monday’s meeting of Waterford County Council, Cllr Tom Cronin, referring to surgeon Gordon Watson, said: “I am calling Mr Watson a liar and I am calling on him to stop playing politics with the cancer patients in the south-east.”

The comment referred to a February meeting of the council where Mr Watson said there were some people not getting radiotherapy treatment in the south-east.

After an adjournment of Monday’s meeting, Mr Cronin agreed to withdraw the claim that Mr Watson was a liar.

Yesterday Mr Cullen said he wished to apologise to Mr Watson and regretted what had happened, adding that he would not like to see any personalising of the radiotherapy issue. He also acknowledged the hard work Gordon Watson applied to his role in cancer care at Waterford Regional Hospital.

A leading campaigner for the provision of a radiotherapy unit in the south-east, Jane Baily, also criticised Cllr Cronin’s comments.

She said Gordon Watson’s reputation in radiotherapy and cancer care spoke for itself, and it was the Government and not the surgeon that was playing politics with cancer patients.

“I would ask Cllr Cronin and his party to put their energy into ensuring there is a full cancer care treatment service provided for the south-east,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued yesterday by the FF councillor, he said that if by the use of the word liar, which he subsequently withdrew at Monday’s council meeting, he had offended Mr Watson in any way he was sorry.

Cllr Cronin said the issue arose from a simple question he had put to Mr Watson when he attended the February council meeting.

“I asked if there are patients in the south-east region suffering from cancer who should have got radiotherapy treatment and didn’t, and his response was ‘yes’. However, when I subsequently took it up at a meeting of the South Eastern Health Board, of which I am a member, I was told by the officials that there is no record of there being such people in the region,” said Cllr Cronin.

He said it was his hope that people would share his concern and frustration with these conflicting answers and his desire to “find out the truth”.

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