July 18, 2019
News Opinion

‘John Needs Pembro’ campaign: Langton’s to host biggest fundraiser to date

By KIERAN CONWAY

THE people of Kilkenny have rallied magnificently for the ‘John Needs Pembro’ campaign.

There are many reasons why the campaign has achieved so much attention and support.

John Holmes’ stoic bravery in the face of a harrowing seven-year ordeal naturally elicited sympathy. His standing in the community as family man, a good friend and loyal employer assured him the outpouring of goodwill he has enjoyed since he took his battle public last November.

But what most characterises the public reaction to John’s fight is indignation. Indignation that a father, a friend and neighbour – one of our own! – must fundraise to pay for his cancer treatment. And pay VAT into the bargain.

As taxpayers, our deal with the State is simple: we pay taxes to the State and the State uses those taxes to provide for the public good. We pay for the infrastructure, the public servants and we pay for the health system. We pay taxes all our lives so that we don’t have to shake buckets to pay for our cancer medication. And we certainly don’t expect the State to take 23% out of those buckets in the form of VAT.

And perhaps this is why the people of Kilkenny have rallied so magnificently around John – because they object to how comprehensively he has been let down by the HSE and the Revenue.

But it is unsustainable to expect fundraising campaigns to gloss things over every time the State reneges on its deal with its citizens. The system needs reform and we need politicians willing to undertake this reform.


October 2018 was a dark time for John (above) and his family. He had first been told that he was a match for Pembrolizumab and then told the HSE would not help pay for it. His life was distilled to this – find €5,111.50 (including VAT, lest we forget) or go without.

Six months of arduous fundraising later, things are looking a little better. Last week Professor John Crown gave John the welcome news that he was very satisfied with the progress made after eight infusions of Pembrolizumab and was recommending a further series of infusions. This is the best news John has had in years and he was understandably buoyant.

There has been welcome progress on other fronts too. Kilkenny County Council unanimously passed a motion of support for John’s right to equal access to Pembrolizumab.

The local media – both print and radio – continues to be engaged and sympathetic. A national columnist recently wrote a column expressing indignation that John must fundraise to pay for his cancer medication. And – speaking of fundraising – they have now raised €75,000 of the €150,000 needed. There is a feeling momentum in the air and it is reinforced by ‘John Needs Pembro’s upcoming fundraising schedule.

Next Friday, April 26, sees the biggest, most ambitious fundraising project yet – a huge gig in Langton’s Ballroom dubbed the ‘Infusion Gig’ which boasts a line-up of three bands, including renowned singer Jason Fallon, local rockers The Big Guns and opening act the St Patrick’s Brass & Reed Band.

A disco and late bar round off the night which also features an auction, a raffle and a meal. At €10 ticket, this is ridiculously good value.

Tickets can be bought via Eventbrite.ie (search for ‘Infusion Gig), from the reception at Langton’s or at Rollercoaster Records.

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