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Latest ITV storm after tearful Love Island star Jacques O’Neill was ‘pressured to seem on spin-off’

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Latest ITV storm after tearful Love Island star Jacques O’Neill was ‘pressured to seem on spin-off’ show Aftersun

ITV was embroiled in a confrontation last night amid claims that a Love Island contestant felt under duress to seem on its spin-off programme to speak about his ordeal on the show.

Sources claimed that Jacques O’Neill felt he had little alternative but to conform to be interviewed by host Laura Whitmore on its Aftersun show since it was stipulated in his contract.

But friends consider his reluctance must have been clear to producers given his obvious distress on the circumstances during which he decided to depart the show.

One informed source confirmed the rugby league player was unhappy about appearing on Aftersun after being left distraught when former contestant Adam Collard, who has a repute as a womaniser, was drafted in to the present series by ITV producers. Collard quickly began flirting with O’Neill’s girlfriend Paige Thorne.

Jacques O’Neil, 23, was visibly distressed about his relationship with Paige Thorne (right) as he left the Love Island villa

O'Neil on Love Island spin-off show Aftersun following his departure from the villa  - sources say he felt pressured into appearing on the show with host Laura Whitmore because it was in his contract

O’Neil on Love Island spin-off show Aftersun following his departure from the villa  – sources say he felt pressured into appearing on the show with host Laura Whitmore since it was in his contract 

In a newspaper interview after leaving the show’s villa, O’Neill described participating in Love Island as ‘the worst decision’ of his life, adding: ‘I used to be crying my eyes out. I couldn’t cope. I used to be literally feeling awful. It was the worst I’d ever felt in my life, I used to be crying, saying to them, “I’m able to go home.”’ 

Rounding on ITV, which has been forced to fend off claims that it does too little to support the mental health of Love Island contestants, the source said: ‘Jacques kept saying he wasn’t mentally well enough. It was quite obvious that was the case, especially while you read what he said after he got here out of the villa.’

But ITV last night flatly rejected claims that it pressured O’Neill into appearing on Aftersun, insisting that it’s ‘genuinely committed to creating sure the Islanders have a positive experience on the show’ and that producers would ‘respect an Islander’s decision in the event that they didn’t wish to participate and we might never force someone to participate within the programme’.

The row once more turns the highlight on broadcasters faced with balancing a desire for dramatic television to lure in viewers and the necessity to protect those participating.

Allies of O’Neill also criticised ITV for showing a video of Collard – including footage of him kissing Miss Thorne – just before the 23-year-old sportsman was interviewed by Ms Whitmore on Aftersun last Sunday.

During an episode on July 12, O’Neill was seen sobbing as he told his co-stars that he was leaving the villa because of tension over the arrival of 27-year-old Collard.

Days earlier, O’Neill’s sister had revealed that he ‘struggles along with his emotions’ because he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

ITV declined to comment on the contestants’ contractual obligations, but a spokesman said: ‘Aftersun is normally a part of the itinerary for any Islander after they’ve left the villa.’

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