'World class' Derry men in new TV series

Two Derry men are to feature in a new television series focusing on "world-class achievers".

Patrick Johnston, who is leading the world in cancer research, and lawyer Des Doherty, who advised Saddam Hussein's defence team, will come under the spotlight in ‘Thinking Big’, a new series from BBC Northern Ireland.

The first of the three-part series (Monday, September 3, 10.35 pm) looks at Professor Patrick Johnston, one of the world’s top oncologists who is transforming the way in which cancer is treated.

Born in Donegal, his family moved to Derry where he spent his formative years. Johnston is now the Dean of Medicine at Queen’s University and was the driving force behind the new Northern Ireland Clinical Cancer Centre.

In the programme, Professor Johnston returns to America where he spent 10 years studying oncology at the world renowned National Cancer Institute in Washington DC. He also visits Singapore, where the local administration has enlisted his help in improving cancer care there.

In ten years he has transformed Northern Ireland to become a true world leader in treatment and research.

The second programme looks at Des Doherty. Until now, the Derry lawyer has refused to speak publicly about his most famous client - Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Doherty became involved in the trial of the century after forging an international reputation as a first-rate lawyer.

Born in Derry’s Creggan Estate, he failed his eleven plus but never allowed this setback to hold him back. Apart from the Saddam case, he has represented victims of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and the Omagh atrocity.

However, it was his work at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that brought him to the attention of some of London’s finest barristers.

The BBC publicity surrounding the new series says of Mr. Doherty: “This is a man who defies convention. Viewers will see him as he wrestles with his role in defending a despot and the moral dilemmas he faced in taking on the legal world’s most difficult client.”

Trevor Birney, producer, said: “Northern Ireland has been short of role models but each of these men are truly inspirational. They have faced and overcome huge challenges in their careers and have not allowed Northern Ireland’s troubled history or geographic location to prevent them from building global reputations and businesses.

“The series crosses all spectrums of age, religion and social class and demonstrates that ordinary people in Northern Ireland can be successful on the world stage without leaving home.”