Columnist goes into a spin

I WRITE in response to Margaret Browne’s letter (July 2) about the heartlessness of Terry Prone’s column on the subject of cancer (June 29).

As a keen observer of Ms Prone’s columns, may I offer these observations to Ms Browne and others who may have been similarly offended?

For a long time I have had the conviction that the clue to reading Terry Prone is first of all to ask yourself what she is spinning this week because if you look carefully behind all the bon mots, bonhomie and funny stories, she is always spinning something.

On this occasion I believe she was advocating the idea that rather than having expectations of cancer care services, “ordinary people” could regard themselves as better human beings if they quietly laid down and died. This is not the first time she has attempted this theme. Not very long ago, also in her column in the Irish Examiner, Terry Prone decried the patients and others who phone Joe Duffy to describe their experiences of the health service – and ridiculed Mr Duffy, his listeners and his programme for enabling such public expressions of despair and concern.

All this, you see, at a time when the Government, and Mary Harney in particular, are coming under fire for the parlous state of the health service into which billions of taxpayers’ euro have been poured to the benefit of private business “investors” – with no concomitant improvement in the quality of service. If anything, things are getting worse.

As a PR professional, Ms Prone has earned a handsome living advising Fianna Fáil governments on how to sell unpopular policies and equally unpopular politicians.

If she has not quite managed the feat of persuading us that these pigs’ ears have been made into silk purses, then she must resort to the other side of public relations: shaping the attitudes of the population at large.

In this last respect, Ms Prone is a tireless and subtle warrior for the neo-conservative, irresponsible and uncaring policies that have destroyed the country. The plight of cancer patients is a powerful phenomenon and one which has regularly brought successive health ministers into disrepute for doing everything and anything bar the needful to improve standards of care.

It is into the heart of this particular scourge of health policy, I believe, that Terry Prone is aiming her spears. We should keep an eye out for them.

Miriam Cotton

Clonakilty

Co Cork

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