We would like to sincerely thank everyone again for attending our 3rd Wise Traditions Ireland conference on March 25th and 26th – and for the wonderful feedback we have received from so many of you since. It is very much appreciated!
In the midst of our joy, there is however one issue that remains unresolved, and which we would like to bring to your attention.
On Saturday 25th March, the first day of the conference, an article appeared in the Irish Examiner openly attempting to discredit some of our speakers, as well as Thomond Park management and ourselves the organisers. You can read the article at the end of this page.
Those of you who attended the conference will know that this article is off the mark and in no way reflects the quality of the speakers or their message.
Although not surprised, we were nonetheless disappointed at the tone of this article and the standard of journalism therein. It was ill-informed and inaccurate on many levels, therefore we subsequently contacted the newspaper to voice our concerns. We received acknowledgment of our letter from the acting editor and were promised a substantive reply, but to date this has not been forthcoming. Therefore we feel it is timely to publish our rebuttal of this article on our conference website. We do this in the spirit of promoting informed and accurate journalism – particularly in this era of “fake news”!!
Below is our letter to the Editor of the Irish Examiner, please judge for yourselves if you think it was justified.
Letter to the Editor, Irish Examiner, 31st March 2017
Dear Mr Prosser
We are writing to you in response to an article by Joe Leogue, which you released on Saturday 25th of March criticising Thomond Park for hosting a conference on the basis that some of the scheduled speakers were anti-vaccine advocates.
As the conference organisers, in the spirit of respectful dialogue and mutual understanding, we wish to point out a number of problems with the article.
The first point is that other than hosting the event, Thomond Park had no part in the content or the line up, no more than they would for any event they host, yet your article singled them out, presumably due to their well known name. Nonetheless some staff members reported to us that they had received repeated harassing phone calls from a woman called Fiona O’Leary, who appears to have been attempting to either get the event cancelled or have the speakers she was taking issue with removed from the roster.
The second issue is that the event was NOT about vaccines or autism. It was a conference covering a broad range of topics including the role of nutrition in physical and mental health as well as a focus on improving the health of the soil. The diverse range of speakers discussed evidence based research related to population health. In fact we sent press releases to explain the conference, which included contact details, to Joe McNamee, an Examiner journalist, on the 6th of Feb and again on the 6th of March. The press release was also sent to Colette Keane and the weekend section of the Examiner on 10th March.
The third issue is that the article claims The Examiner made “attempts” to reach out to us for comment. The reality is a single email was sent at 2.43pm to the conference website on Friday afternoon, thus allowing us no time to reply to it. No phone calls were made to any of the organisers. We can appreciate editorial deadlines but in hindsight it appears the journalist had ample time to ensure his story was accurate had he really wished to. It’s unclear to us if this was deliberate, but the tone of the article made it appear as if we were being evasive.
The fourth issue is that your article references a group of speakers who have previously expressed anti-vaccine sentiments, yet it goes on to name only one, that being Natasha Campbell McBride, a medical doctor and neurologist. Dr Campbell McBride has repeatedly expressed concern about administering vaccines to immune compromised children, a concept that is recognised on vaccine warning labels but routinely ignored or misunderstood by administration centres. Other than that she regularly conveys that vaccines have saved many lives. It is clear that precious little investigation was conducted into Dr Campbell-McBride before writing the article, the tone of which served only to fuel the polarisation of opinion on this important topic.
The fifth issue is that the article appears to have been heavily influenced or at least written at the behest of a third party, Fiona O’Leary, who is quoted in it claiming that the conference organisers were using offensive language about autism. This line is in itself highly offensive to us. The truth is that as conference organisers we never mentioned autistic children in any of our conference literature save for Dr Campbell McBride’s short bio which referenced her own journey with her son. This again suggests little research was carried out.
It is laudable that individuals are prepared to stand up in support of autistic people whom they feel are being mistreated by many sectors of society, and we do acknowledge that many families living with autism are somewhat divided on what the best way forward is, with opinions diverging on what can be done to help.
We in the Weston A. Price Chapter are in favour of promoting society wide autism awareness and acceptance – however we strongly believe that much can be done to improve a child’s health and well-being, regardless of any diagnosis. Indeed we regularly encounter examples of positive changes occurring as a result of targeted nutritional interventions, changes which do not receive much mainstream media coverage, despite the hope it could instil in so many parents.
We fully and completely advocate that the vast majority of autistic children are eating food that does not benefit their health and in fact actively worsens it, and upon implementation of drastic, though measured, dietary changes many can often see marked improvements in the child’s general well being and level of happiness. Sometimes the results are so startling it leads parents to refer to this as a ‘cure’; however that is but a lay use of the term, which has a very different meaning legally and medically. It may merely be a phrase used by happy parents delighted at the extent of the improvement in their child and at the hope it brings!
Dr Campbell McBride has dedicated her life to teaching people how to go about this dietary change and has witnessed countless success stories that would warm the heart of anybody who cares to look past the hyperbole. With every year that passes the science grows stronger in support of this approach, interestingly some of which is occurring in UCC where the role of gut flora in mental health is being studied as part of the new field of psycho-biotics.
Joe Leogue wrote to ask us: “Does the Foundation believe that it is acting responsibly by giving such views a platform given the medical consensus that vaccines are safe and that autism cannot be ‘cured’?”
Any journalist with an eye on history could easily conclude that ‘medical consensus’ continues to develop and adapt as new facts and research come to light. This kind of appeal to authority reflects a lazy form of journalism.
It is false in itself to state that there is medical consensus on the safety of vaccines. The sheer number of opposing organisations worldwide, in which medical personnel participate, is evidence enough that ‘consensus’ is a myth. Add to that the billions of dollars paid out in injury payments and it is clear that if there is only one truth within the vaccine debate, it is that there is no real consensus about their inherent safety for all of the population.
Whilst every point we make above is, we will readily acknowledge, open to critique and reasonable challenge, the thing we take most issue with concerning the article is how the paper colluded to silence the voice of speakers on the grounds of simple disagreement, and used needlessly inflammatory language to get its case across. Of all the professions in the world, when journalism is used to silence opposing opinions we are in real trouble. We look to independent journalism to help light the way through confusion, not to sow it, and society respects and looks up to professional editorial standards as a bulwark against nonsense and trivia.
The responsibility rests with you the Editor, and whilst accepting that honest mistakes can be made, rectifying them once they become known takes good moral character. We would like to think a good paper with the standing of The Examiner would not allow itself to be influenced by irrational non-argument dressed up as righteous anger!
This misinformed and biased article attempted (unsuccessfully) to undermine our public information event, making us question the agenda of the said journalist.
We are not asking for a retraction of this hastily released article. We are however looking for a balanced article to be printed about the conference itself in a true professional manner and we are more than happy to provide any information!
Brendan, Anne, Deirdre, Maya
Wise Traditions Ireland conference organisers
Irish Examiner article by Joe Leogue, Saturday 25th March 2017
We welcome your comments!