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"The story is a disgrace": John Furlong strikes back

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The former head of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver has fired another volley in his war of words with a reporter at the Georgia Straight newspaper.

John Furlong has posted a statement to his website which he says provides “clarity, context and background” to Laura Robinson’s story that details accusations of abuse while he was a teacher in Burns Lake in 1969.

Furlong also continues to insist Robinson’s story about him was false and libellous, and has caused significant pain and anguish to him and his family.

Both sides are threatening to sue the other.

Here is John Furlong’s complete statement:

Setting the Record Straight on my Life and Family: John Furlong

Last Thursday I responded to an inaccurate Georgia Straight story by Laura Robinson where serious allegations were levied against me.  As she prepared her story she was cautioned frequently by my legal counsel that her information was wrong.  She and the Georgia Straight were warned repeatedly of the consequences for printing damaging, untrue information.  Legal action against both is now in process for a retraction, full apology and substantial monetary damages.
The past five days have been humiliating and demeaning beyond anything my family and I have ever experienced.  My loved ones in Canada and Ireland have been subjected to scrutiny, sarcasm, disrespect and outrageous invasions of privacy.  The story is a disgrace beyond words.

Today I am setting the record straight on aspects of the story and its author that cannot wait for a courtroom given their gravity, her callousness and the damage inflicted.  

My volunteer service in Burns Lake and Prince George (1969-1972) and return to Ireland.  

I came to Burns Lake in 1969 as a volunteer at a small school that needed help.  I worked hard to try and be a positive influence, I cared deeply for the students and I left after 14 months of service.  My wife and I then moved to Prince George where we continued to volunteer before returning home to Ireland by 1972 as our volunteer commitment had ended.  As this time will be discussed at length in court, I can say only that as a volunteer teacher I treated everyone in a fair, appropriate manner and at no time unlawfully or harmfully.  I have never denied nor purposefully omitted speaking publicly of this time.  It was not material in any way to my very difficult and emotional decision to leave Ireland permanently and where the story of my life as a Canadian begins.  

Contrary to the article, my eldest son was born not before but after our return to Ireland, on January 28th 1973 in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, close to our home.  He is an Irish born proud Canadian with dual citizenship.

The 1974 Irish Bombings, my cousin Siobhan Roice’s death and my immigration to Canada   

I risk great pain to my family in Canada and Ireland in clarifying why I left Ireland for good but Ms. Robinson’s disgraceful mockery of a deeply difficult period must be addressed.

Ms. Robinson incorrectly and for reasons I find incomprehensible, attempts to describe the circumstances of my cousin Siobhan Roice’s death at the hands of terrorists in the Dublin Bombings on May 17th, 1974.  She challenges my father’s role in identifying her body, how he identified her, his subsequent death, the damage it did to us and my resulting decision to leave Ireland permanently for Canada. Ms. Robinson’s cruel words are entirely wrong, have inflicted agony and stress and have revisited a horrible tragedy on us.  

The Dublin Bombings were the most cowardly terrorist attack in Ireland’s history.  The country was in shock as many died and were maimed that day.  My shaken father identified Siobhan’s broken body exactly as I remember it in my book.  He died of a massive heart attack days after her closed casket funeral and is buried in the grave attaching that of Siobhan.  

To protect Siobhan’s mother (my aunt), her family told her that Siobhan had died quickly with little suffering from a heart attack.  I have been reminded again by family in Ireland recently that this is how they have spoken of this tragedy ever since in a caring and continuous show of compassion to help her and the whole family try to heal.    

The actual events, however, made a searing, painful and lasting impression on me.  We left for Canada not long afterwards; the story I’ve shared countless times is the true account of a tragedy that shaped my life forever.  We came to Canada as landed immigrants grateful for a fresh start and a new beginning.  A customs officer’s simple welcome to the country has inspired me for a lifetime.  We love this country and have been deeply grateful for the opportunity it has given us for a better life by working hard, giving back, and always looking out for others.  

Laura Robinson’s open contempt for the Olympic Games and male authority figures in sport  

Ms. Robinson’s contempt for me and for the Olympics was well known to the leadership at VANOC.  She was openly acerbic in her articles about VANOC’s activities especially as they related to First Nations and female athletes, my leadership, and the International Olympic Committee.  She is particularly known for her caustic criticism of male authority figures in sport.  At VANOC we accepted her scrutiny – biased as it consistently was – as part of the job.  We thought our interaction with her ended with the Games.  

My family and I are at a loss to try to understand her motivation for this latest attack that is both personal and destructive to the extreme.  The damage to us is massive and will be immeasurably detrimental to us for years to come.