The school of medicine in University College Dublin (UCD) has disassociated itself from views expressed by a professor who told an online alt-right interviewer that she wanted to "debunk the narrative" surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Prof Dolores Cahill, who chairs the Eurosceptic Irish Freedom Party, has been asked to resign as vice-chair of the scientific committee of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) because of her claims.
The European Commission, which is a partner of the IMI, said the claims made by Prof Cahill in the interview could cause "significant harm" if taken literally.
During the interview, since removed by Youtube, she claimed that lockdown and social distancing were not needed to stop the spread of the virus, and that “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”.
More than 130 students, almost all from the UCD school of medicine, signed a letter saying the failure of the university to disavow Prof Cahill’s statements “acts as a silent endorsement”.
A meeting to discuss the controversy was held on Thursday, after which the head of the school, Prof Michael Keane, told academic staff: "The school of medicine, college of health and agricultural sciences, the Conway Institute and the university, continue to fully support the public health position taken by the Irish Government concerning Covid-19.
‘Spread of the virus’
“This includes treatment for Covid-19 patients and societal restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.”
Many UCD faculty staff and students are directly involved in the provision of healthcare and research specifically relating to Covid-19, Prof Keane pointed out.
“The views expressed by Prof Dolores Cahill are her own. They do not reflect the position of the school, college, institute or university.”
During Thursday’s meeting, those present discussed the academic freedom provisions in the Universities Act 1997.The view is understood to have been discussed that any move to disadvantage Prof Cahill would leave the university open to being sued. Prof Cahill has not as yet commented on the controversy.