University College Dublin professor Dolores Cahill's claims at an anti-Covid-19 lockdown protest that children who wear face masks are being "starved" of oxygen and will have lower IQ have been criticised by a fellow college academic.
Speaking at a lockdown protest in Herbert Park on St Patrick’s Day, Prof Cahill charged that “globalists” have pushed for mandatory mask wearing because “oxygen-deprived people are easy to manipulate”.
However, John Gilmore, assistant professor in the UCD school of nursing, said while there needed to be protection of academic freedom in the State, medical academics had a "responsibility around public health".
There was currently no evidence that wearing face masks led to a lack of oxygen, he said. “It is concerning that people are getting a lot of misinformation and disinformation … I believe the science provided by Nphet”, he said.
Prof Cahill, the chair of the Eurosceptic Irish Freedom Party, has propagated a number of strongly-rejected claims about Covid-19. She promoted the Herbert Park gathering ahead of the event, even though it breached Covid-19 rules.
The academic is no longer lecturing in UCD’s school of medicine. She had taught a first-year medicine class, called Science, Medicine and Society, usually held in the spring.
UCD confirmed Prof Cahill was no longer teaching the class, or any modules during the current academic term. "Prof Dolores Cahill is not scheduled to teach or co-ordinate modules this trimester," said a spokeswoman.
The module, previously taught by Prof Cahill, had been taken over by Prof Patrick Murray, she said. However, she declined to say whether Prof Cahill's move had been in response to her comments about Covid-19.
Prof Cahill has previously said politicians and the media were using the pandemic “as a fear-mongering propaganda tool to try and take away rights from people and to make them more sick and to force vaccinations on us”.
Last year more than 130 students, mostly from the UCD School of Medicine, signed a letter saying the failure of the university to disavow Prof Cahill’s statements had acted “as a silent endorsement” of her views.
However, the school of medicine has previously disassociated itself from Prof Cahill’s views, which it said “do not reflect the position of the school, college, institute or university”.
Brendan O’Donnell, a second-year postgraduate medicine student, said Prof Cahill’s title “adds importance” to her claims.
“I don’t have a problem with having different opinions … she is saying things which are untrue, or at least unsubstantiated,” he said. “I’m not one to go on a witch hunt for her to lose her job,” he said.
However, students were frustrated that it appeared she had not been sanctioned by UCD over her comments, he said.
Amy Schranz, another medicine student, said Prof Cahill’s claims about Covid-19 were “extremely damaging” to public health efforts to fight the virus.
Ms Schranz said that while tenure had been introduced to protect academics pursuing research that could be controversial, there should be limits. “We need to draw a line between what is controversial and what is incorrect,” she said.
Prof Cahill did not respond to multiple requests for comment on her move from the lecturer role.