Three top Hollywood stars - all A-list supporters of UNICEF - last night broke their silence on the controversial sacking of the charity's Irish director Melanie Verwoerd.
Liam Neeson, Vanessa Redgrave and Roger Moore all withdrew their high-profile support of the children's charity and urged it to reinstate the former South African ambassador who inspired them to become goodwill ambassadors.
They called her dismissal as executive director “a profoundly damaging loss to UNICEF”.
Mr Neeson said he was pulling out of a commitment he made when Ms Verwoerd was at the helm to take a field trip to Mozambique with his sons.
His mother-in-law, veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave, said she was cancelling an upcoming benefit that she was producing for UNICEF Ireland at Dublin's Grand Canal Theatre in September.
In a statement last night by all three actors, they said they fully supported Ms Verwoerd who was dismissed by the charity's board over the publicity surrounding her relationship with the late RTE radio star Gerry Ryan.
They wrote: “We are profoundly disturbed by the news that the UNICEF National Committee of Ireland has dismissed our colleague, Melanie Verwoerd, the Irish committee's executive director.
“She has been hounded by the Irish press, but throughout her commitment to UNICEF has been unwavering.
“The huge increase in donations to UNICEF through 2010, and the major increase in Irish partnerships, is sure proof of this.
“It also proves that whatever various personal opinions, Melanie Verwoerd and the Irish UNICEF Committee have worked well together to achieve this,” they wrote.
“So firm is our trust in Melanie Verwoerd as an exceptional UNICEF advocate and leader, that we are compelled to say we view the dismissal of Melanie as a profoundly damaging loss to UNICEF.
“Both Melanie Verwoerd, and each of us, made our pledges to UNICEF to always put the children first.
“We ask UNICEF and its supporters to officially recognise her value, and offer her another post with UNICEF, so that she may continue her vocation and exceptional commitment to the children.
“At this moment putting children first means Melanie Verwoerd.” - Irish Independent