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24th Nov 2022

Place in The Sun’s Jonnie Irwin axed after cancer diagnosis

Steve Hopkins

‘That broke my heart. I feel hugely let down. I can’t even watch the show now’

Jonnie Irwin has accused A Place In The Sun bosses of dumping him as soon as he told them he had cancer, with the presenter claiming he was paid off mid-series with his contract not being renewed.

The 49-year-old told The Sun it “broke my heart” and that he can now no longer even watch the show.

The dad-of-three spoke out about his despair at leaving behind his wife, Jess, and children, Rex, three, and two-year-old twins Cormac and Rafa to the publisher, saying: “Every time something really nice happens with them, I have this thing knocking at my door, saying, ‘Don’t get too happy because you’re not going to be around much longer’.

“Then, I think they’re not going to remember me, they’re really not. “They’re too young and if I die this year there’s no chance they will have memories. And someone else is probably going to bring them up.”

Jonnie was given just six months to live when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which had spread to his brain, in August 2020, but had been kept alive through medication, radiotherapy and chemo.

He had been filming A Place In The Sun in Italy when he became ill — and says producers paid him off and did not renew his contract once he informed them.

“As soon as people find out you’ve got cancer they write you off. Yes, I have stage four and it’s terminal — but not yet, so let me live my life while I can,” he explained to The Sun.

“As soon as I told A Place In The Sun about my diagnosis they paid me for the rest of the season but didn’t renew my contract. They knew I wanted to carry on.

“That hurt. That broke my heart. I feel hugely let down. I can’t even watch the show now.”

Jonnie has not stopped working throughout the months of treatment, filming for Escape To The Country as well as working on commercial projects, motivated by an urge to provide for his family.

He has sold his property portfolio to pay off the mortgage on a new home in Newcastle so Jess, 40, could be close to family.

“I want to go knowing that Jess and the boys are looked after,” he said.

That’s why it hurt so much when Freeform Productions, the company behind Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun, turned on him, Jonnie explained. It also led him to keep his cancer secret for two years, fearful he would lose more work.

“Yes, I’m a family man and I need to put a roof over our heads and food on the table but work is something that’s really important to me. It also stops me thinking about cancer,” he told The Sun.

“Even though I look thinner and I’m without hair, Escape to the Country and A Place In The Sun Ltd, which runs the show’s exhibitions, have employed me and I’ve been so impressed by them.

“But I didn’t get that support from A Place In The Sun. I told them I wanted to work. When I said I can get you doctor notes and assurances from my oncologist that I am fit to work, I was told, verbatim, ‘Oh, you really don’t want to go down that route, do you?’

“They said, ‘We don’t think we can get the insurance’, not ‘We can’t get the insurance’, but, ‘We don’t think . . . ’ That broke my heart and affected my mental health.”

Jonnie said within two weeks “someone else was on TV doing my job”.

“I just feel I earned a bit more from them after 18 years. That was my first job in TV and it was special to me.”

A statement from Channel 4 and production company Freeform given to The Sun reads: “No stone was left unturned in trying to enable Jonnie to continue his international filming with us during Covid but the production company were unable to secure adequate insurance cover for him.

“We, of course, understand how frustrating this must be for him at this incredibly difficult time.”

Read Jonnie’s full interview with The Sun here.

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