From top: Gemma O’Doherty (left) with independent Cork County councillor Diarmaid Ó Cadhla (centre) and Michael Collins (right), an independent TD for Cork South West outside Leinster House on Wednesday morning; Bryan Wall

When Gemma O’Doherty announced her plan to seek a nomination for the presidential elections here, a collective guffaw emerged from certain quarters of Irish society.

Ms O’Doherty has made a name for herself, and powerful enemies, over the years by pursuing the truth no matter the cost.

When she confronted the issue of corruption in the Gardaí, specifically the issue of penalty points being wiped from the driving licences of high ranking members of the Gardaí, politicians, and even fellow journalists, her career with the Irish Independent was summarily ended by her superiors.

Having discovered that the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, had penalty points wiped from his own licence, she, as any decent journalist knows to do, made sure to check the information that she had was correct.

This involved verifying the address she was given. She duly called to the address, knocked at the door and asked the woman who answered if this was the address of Callinan. When the woman, Callinan’s wife answered yes, Ms O’Doherty left.

Following this she was reprimanded by her superior at the paper, Ian Mallon, who told her that “the Commissioner was furious and had made a complaint of harassment” against her.

Mr Mallon was the deputy of the then editor-in-chief, Stephen Rae, who had recently been given the position after Independent News & Media’s (INM) acquisition of the paper.

Mr Rae had previously been the editor of Garda Review, the monthly publication of the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

As Ms O’Doherty herself would later relate, after she verified Callinan’s address and published her story regarding his penalty points being wiped, Mr Rae “had been ordered down to Garda HQ”.

It would later emerge that Mr Rae himself also had penalty points wiped from his licence.

Not long after the publication of her story regarding Mr Callinan, and having turned down a “request” to stop working on Garda corruption, she was made “compulsorily redundant”.

Ms O’Doherty sued INM, which owns the Irish Independent and whose largest shareholder is Denis O’Brien. She settled out of court, with INM paying her an “undisclosed sum” and covering her legal costs.

INM also issued a statement, in which they “acknowledge[d] the exceptional work of multi-award winning investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty for the Irish Independent during the course of a lengthy career.”

Her career with the Irish Independent over, she nonetheless continues to comment on and investigate instances of corruption in Irish society, most particularly surrounding the Gardaí and their involvement in the case of the disappearance of Mary Boyle.

She has also been an ardent supporter of the whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson, the two Gardaí who raised the issue of the wiping of penalty points in the first place.

When Ms O’Doherty earlier this  Summer announced her intention to seek a nomination for the presidential election, with her goal of running on a platform of anti-corruption and of being a “voice for the voiceless”, she was met with derision and contempt.

Kitty Holland, the Social Affairs Correspondent with The Irish Times, took particular issue with Ms O’Doherty. The latter has consistently pointed out that Ms Holland’s paper continues to engage in “property porn”, in spite of the last 10 years of austerity; much to the former’s chagrin.

Ms Holland responded to this by calling O’Doherty a “fantacist [sic]” for pointing out that her wages are likely paid by the money the paper earns from advertisements from property companies.

Ms O’Doherty is of course correct in her assessment, however.

Much research has been done on the issue of the Irish media’s role in inflating the property bubble during the Celtic Tiger, with the work of Dr. Julien Mercille of University College Dublin being second to none in this regard.

Also, during the banking inquiry the former editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, described in detail the paper’s reliance on advertising revenue from property companies.

She also mentioned the subsequent pressure her and her paper came under from these same sources of revenue after her paper published an article critical of the housing boom.

She told the inquiry that, “People from the property sector were saying it would rock the foundation of The Irish Times, we would never get an advertisement again and it was damaging the credibility of the country.”

That Ms O’Doherty was correct in her assessment was irrelevant. She had placed herself outside the bounds of acceptable liberal journalism and could be denigrated thusly.

Ms Holland continued her attacks, claiming that O’Doherty “Promises much and delivers little” and, more recently, calling her “delusional”.

This has been the pattern for the past two months in which O’Doherty has been accused of being everything from transphobic to an anti-vaxxer.

All of this, begs the obvious question: Why has there been such a reaction against Gemma O’Doherty as a candidate?

Part of this stems from her work uncovering corruption in Ireland. Corruption in Ireland has always gone on just under the surface. We live in a wink and nod society where malfeasance is regularly covered up and oftentimes not reported in the media.

That Jonathan Sugarman, for example, is not a household name puts our mainstream media to shame. Instead, people like Bertie Ahern, infamous for his corrupt dealings, are rehabilitated on the national broadcaster without comment or question.

Ms O’Doherty’s work in uncovering corruption puts many people in Ireland, who hold positions of influence in the government and in media, and the role that they play in ensuring that the status quo is upheld, on the defensive.

The fact that Kitty Holland can go from congratulating Ms O’Doherty on her victory over INM to lambasting her on social media shows how close to home Ms O’Doherty’s comments and work have hit.

In the case of Ms Holland and The Irish Times, it has to do with the role the paper played in inflating a property bubble during the Celtic Tiger and how it continues to do so today whilst we are in the midst of a rental and homeless crisis no less.

And while this may not be corrupt as such, it is a corrupting influence to have to defer to powerful groups for advertising income, as is the case with The Irish Times and the property sector.

Ms O’Doherty’s work on corruption also explains why the big parties consistently blocked her nomination at the council level.

Her work hits extremely close to home for many a stalwart of the two big parties. Her questioning of the received orthodoxy of the nod and wink culture made her a heretic in the eyes of many a loyal party member.

Granted, it was to be expected that she would come up against attempts to block her nomination and intransigence in general. But the political wall she ran up against must be almost unheard of.

Throughout the country her nomination was obstructed by voting blocs of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour. So while those who exemplify predatory capitalism are perfectly fine as nominees for the presidency, someone of O’Doherty’s ilk must instead be made to pay for the temerity of daring to be a good journalist.

During her appearance on a special livestream on Wednesday the 26th, she made the point that “The party system has failed Ireland.”

She is correct in the sense that given her inability to receive enough votes for the nomination due to the big parties, it shows up the democratic institutions for how hollow they really are.

As has always been the case, representatives took it upon themselves to decide for the wider population instead of deciding with them.

Hence, we have the inherent contradiction of modern representative democracy in which elected representatives pick and choose which aspects of the public interest they themselves deem worthy of political attention.

A filtering mechanism such as this is a fundamental aspect of modern forms of democracy. It allows the leaders to encourage advocacy and debate within strict limits, which ensures the security of the system they oversee.

Any person who goes beyond these borders though is filtered out as a deviant or miscreant.

Ms O’Doherty falls into this latter category given her work and statements over the years. Therefore, the idea of her name appearing on the ballot paper next month could not be countenanced.

Politicians, the media, and journalists all played their part in ensuring that she would be unable to get the required votes for her nomination.

The media’s role in all of this is particularly egregious. For example, The Irish Examiner went so far as to publish a piece questioning her journalistic work over the years.

Enough has already been said about Kitty Holland, a journalist of high rank and large influence. Her former colleagues in the media also played the role of stenographers when they unquestioningly publicised Jimmy Guerin’s comments in which he described Ms O’Doherty as a “conspiracy theorist”.

Mr Guerin, the brother of murdered Journalist Veronica Guerin, was responding to Ms O’Doherty’s comments regarding the role the state may have played in the murder of his sister.

What the media failed to mention was that in an investigation 16 years ago for Village magazine, Vincent Browne and Frank Connolly revealed that the person who likely shot Veronica Guerin was given immunity from prosecution by the state.

In return for this immunity, evidence against John Gilligan was sought; Gilligan being the crime lord the Gardaí were convinced was behind the murder.

Charles Bowden, who it is likely “actually perpetrated the killing — firing several shots into the head and body of Veronica Guerin as she sat in her car” according to Mr Browne and Mr Connolly, also admitted to “having the gun that killed Veronica Guerin, admitted to preparing the gun for the killing, to seeing it after the murder.”

None of this damning information was reported by the media in the last two weeks in spite of its obvious relevance and importance.

Ms O’Doherty’s campaign was torpedoed by those intent on upholding the current political and social orthodoxy.

Her views being warped beyond recognition, along with beliefs being attributed to her which are completely at odds with the work she has done and the statements she has actually made, was enough to ensure the fact that her name won’t appear on the ballot paper next month.

In the society we currently live in, certain questions and topics can be raised, others cannot. So, while it might be perfectly acceptable to question the idea of the financial allowances that politicians receive, it is not permissible to question the very system that allows for such a lucrative structure to be created in the first place.

It means that we can question the excesses of society and our politicians, but never the framework or basis on which it all rests.

And while you may not agree with her views whatsoever, what Ms O’Doherty has endured over the last two months should at the very least give you pause for thought.

Her treatment at the hands of politicians and their friends in positions of power in the media demonstrates to us all the contempt that the media and political orthodoxy hold outsiders in, especially outsiders like Gemma O’Doherty.

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here


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59 thoughts on “Access No Areas

  1. Starina

    Nobody gonna talk about the anti-vaccination and anti-choice aspect of Gemma? Some people are outsiders cos they’re crackers

    1. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      Ha! I have one friend who uses the word crackers and I love it.
      Are you my one friend?!?

    2. dav

      well her supporters won’t seeing as they would prefer a world with no vaccinations and women not having reproductive rights.

      1. f_lawless

        Was thinking the same. I wonder what it stems from – maybe an overhang from the traditional parochial mindset, or the influence the Catholic church has had on Irish society? We do like our conformity – seems like once you stray beyond the boundaries of acceptable public debate here in Ireland it can provoke an emotional response among many. Gemma is a disruptor which is seen as unsettling and threatening hence the over the top reaction to her on comment sections like this. Banding together to slag her off provides comfort and reassurance. That’s my take on it anyway

        1. Boj

          Lost most of my friends in recent years for same reason…I’m a rogue, a renegade who doesn’t slot into their conformed thinking…apparently! Water/LPT/FG all the recent shite, they are all just “yeah its the law” bollox! I’ve been silenced by being excluded. Fupp em I say. I honestly feel better for it. I know my kids will grow up questioning everything(which is good in my mind) as opposed to my former mates whose kids seem to be living an orientation rather than childhood. Hard to explain…beer on-board…not bitter at all..heh…Boj out!

        2. SOQ

          I definitely do think the Catholic culture if not legacy has something to do with it. And, the insecurity of being a post-colony.

          Although with the knowledge that she has so many enemies, I do think Gemma could temper her wording a bit. Not what she is saying but just keeping an eye on what could be misconstrued or worst, deliberately misquoted.

          On the other hand, if she done that, Gemma would not be Gemma and it very easy to be an armchair general.

          One thing really pees me off is the abortion thing. Did she actively campaign against repealing the 8th? If not then she is entitled to her view, as are those who got on the ticket, there is at least two.

          1. f_lawless

            I agree with you on her wording at times on Twitter – could be taken as having a mocking tone, “why do the Irish public put up with this” or using loaded words like “sheeple” would turn some off from the message she wants to convey. .

    3. Brian

      Great article, you’ve done your research, until such time as the broad mass of people get involved in the running of this country with the power to intervene when things get out-of-hand then its business as usual for Establishment Ireland, the banking system is probably the biggest monster we will have to face down in the coming years, we will do this with the consent of the people i.e. bring in a public bank which will serve the needs of the people not the cabal that run this country.

  2. shortforBob

    I don’t agree with it but I think it’s worth publishing.

    I do think it would be improved by being closer to 1000 words instead of near 2000.

    (Edit: The comment I was replying to disappeared.)

  3. Uncle Albert

    Thank you, Bryan, it’s refreshing to read a clear, honest and open piece on Gemma O’Doherty, much appreciated.

  4. ivan

    Also, Gemma said “I believe Veronica (Guerin) was murdered by the State” ( and showed no evidence.

    Giving immunity to the lad who *might* have pulled the trigger is certainly distasteful, but that’s an operational matter for the Gardai (maybe the DPP as well); deals are cut all the time, in the hope of getting somebody further up the tree.

    Either way it’s *not* the same as the state ‘murdering’ her.

    1. Daisy Chainsaw

      Just about to say the same thing.

      Gemmabots are a strange animal indeed, uncritically believing anything she says when most of it is away with the fairies.

    2. Termagant

      “that’s an operational matter for the Gardai ”
      You can conceal and awful lot of truths with statements like that

    3. kavs

      “an operational matter for the Gardai (maybe the DPP as well); deals are cut all the time, in the hope of getting somebody further up the tree”.

      you would be Naive in not adding, “protecting someone further up the tree”

  5. Andrew

    This can be summed up with the final paragrahp below and it is true.The author should try to be more concise.
    I don’ agree with some of Gemma’s views but our media have been failing in its job for generations and they’re only getting worse. people who should no better ape and parrot their nonsense: A few muppets that comment on this site are as guilty as anyone.

    “And while you may not agree with her views whatsoever, what Ms O’Doherty has endured over the last two months should at the very least give you pause for thought.

    Her treatment at the hands of politicians and their friends in positions of power in the media demonstrates to us all the contempt that the media and political orthodoxy hold outsiders in”

  6. lolly

    This piece is misguided and ill-informed at best. she didn’t get a nomination because she had zero qualifications. As President she would be in a far worse position to fight corruption than in her current role as a commentator and agitator so she should be pleased she didn’t get the nomination. I was generally well disposed to her until she put herself forward. but once I read into her views and some of the stuff she published in the last year or two, allied to her downright dangerous views on vaccination and some of the mad things she has said (well documented in the comments on other GO’D posts here), she lost all credibility. She would have been an embarrassment as President. As to her not getting nominated, the speeches she gave at some councils did not show herself in the best light – she came across as entitled, paranoid and downright unpleasant (in a few of the interviews I saw). There was also the fact that she seemed to completely misunderstand the role of the President. Finally she certainly failed the old ‘but would you go for a pint with her’ test.

    Finally on the Kitty Holland thing – GO’D’s own salary at INM was paid for by Denis O’Brien and by Advertising including property advertising. she didn’t like being fired by INM and sued so it seems likely that she would have liked to have kept her job which was paid for by DO’B and property advertising.

      1. Johnny

        How so,she confuses and conflates INM with Dennis O’Brien,he’s never contributed any equity to INM and constantly claims he’s merely a shareholder !
        Quite the contrary actually,under pressure from FG the two state owned and controlled banks forgave/wrote off/magically made disappear over 100 million yeah 100,000,000 of INM debts !
        But I’m sure it’s great if your financially illiterate,duh!

    1. f_lawless

      She didn’t get nominated because she has “zero qualifications” and yet by that logic the cast of a light entertainment show, who were nominated, do?.

    2. Ciuncainteach

      Well said Lolly – particularly the point on Kitty Holland. It seems the author of the piece is willing to give the benefit of the doubt to one party in this spat, but not the other.

      1. lolly

        never said that. except for Michael D they are all unqualified or severely under-qualified in my view. I suspect they got nominated because they are likeable and have a certain name recognition.

  7. Trueblueterry

    Can we stop the GO’D love in on Broadsheet now. She didn’t get the nomination, she is currently tweeting about some great conspiracy with the HPV vaccine, and some of her views are actively dangerous. In addition she blocks anyone on twitter her disagrees with her (or threatens to sue them when questioned about it).

    This is constant posting is starting to turn me off this site and I imagine I am not the only one.

    1. pedeyw

      I also seriously don’t understand what her plan to fight corruption was as President, who has essentially no powers.

  8. Mark Drinan

    Would it be that when she opens herself to be elected to one of the highest offices in this country, everything she has an opinion on, however crazy some of it is, including anti vax, anti trans, anti choice, and wild conspiracy theories etc are open to question and analysis. She cannot expect to have a platform only based on corruption/crime/cover up, because the office of the president broader than that.

    I admire some of the work she has done, but her reaction to critics, threats to sue and blocking on twitter etc. and some of her wild claims give me cause to look with a more critical eye in the future.

    She should stand for election in the next general or European election.

  9. TheQ47

    Genuine question to which I don’t know the answer:

    Did any councillors from FF/ FG/ Lab nominate anyone, or was it just Gemma O’D that they didn’t nominate? i.e., was it a conspiracy against GO’D, or were they just toeing the party line and abstaining?

  10. hapff

    Here look, all you Gemma O’Doherty fans, if she’s such a big enemy of the corrupt state, then how come, when she had her chance at the Disclosures Tribunal, she invoked privilege and refused to name any politicians or journalists who were spreading rumours about Maurice McCabe?

    1. SOQ

      Why not just send her a mail and then post the response here?

      The amount of once off posters when anything pops up relating to GO’D is staggering.

      Broadsheet you really need to do something about this. It really is getting beyond a joke.

    2. sheskin

      Me thinks you will have to go back and have a look at what was said and by whom at the tribunal.O’Doherty and maybe one other journalist were the only ones to come out with any credibility.

  11. AMCD

    “…after Independent News & Media’s (INM) acquisition of the paper.”
    INM didn’t acquire The Irish Independent. The Irish Independent is part of the INM group.

    “Ms O’Doherty sued INM, the Denis O’Brien owned company which itself owns the Irish Independent.”

    DO’B doesn’t own INM he owns 29.9% of said company. A subtle distinction.

    These may seem like pedantic points but are actually pretty important.

  12. Nollaig

    she’s just not suitable as she’ll be spending most of the next few years catching up on her ongoing legal actions, court appearances etc.

  13. Katie

    Another piece of non-journalism by broadsheet. No mention of the things that actually concerned people about Gemma – her anti-vax stance as seen on Twitter today, the disrespect with which she treated the relatives of murder victims, her position on abortion, the fact that she blocked anyone who disagreed with her and ran a combative campaign that might have made sense for an opposition TD but was utterly and completely unpresidential.

  14. Jackdaw

    I see all the negative comments about this site and its editorial impartiality have been taken down. Stasi like crap.

  15. Broadbag

    Kitty Holland showed herself to be petty and spiteful ,but focusing so much of the article on Holland’s hypocrisy re property porn is a bit dim considering GO’D took INM money for 16 years (including the boom)and INM were as bad if not worse on the house hooring. The reporting on GO’D is reaching propaganda levels now, time to give it a rest. She would have broadened the debate for the better, but she lost, it’s done.

  16. Crip

    when talking about Gemmas doorstopping of Martin Callinans wife please take into account the following
    1) it was at 2AM in the morning

    2) she never got her editors approval to do so which was the rules inher job , you dont folow rules you often get sacked , why should Gemma be any different

    3) she already had it confirmed to her that this was Martin Callinans address by a 3rd party

    4) Mr Callinan wasnt at home only his wife , whatever he did his wife didnt deserve a 2 AM wake up call

    but hey.. dont let these facts get in the way of a good woe me story for your pal

    1. Lilly

      It wasn’t 2am, where did you get that? It was 9pm. And as for getting her editor’s approval, what a joke.

    1. A Person

      Johnny – you are GO’D. Admit it. How can any creditable journo reject an anti vax med without any proof whatsoever? I think it is disgraceful, arrogant, misguided and for what? A vote?

  17. McVitty

    Well said, great piece.

    I see Repeal is flaring up again. Irrespective of her private position on Repeal, she said in one of her previous conversations with BS that she would have acknowledged the national vote to repeal the 8th and would have carried out any duties in support of that decision as president, if elected. What more do people need? A picture of her in a Repeal hoodie perhaps? She said herself that she encountered a authoritarian vibe when seeking a nomination from the likes of Boyd Barrett – basically demanding her to declare how she voted. What happened to civility and other people’s right to self-determine? How a person treats another is surely more important than the way a person voted. Then when she refuses conform to the demands of a small number of insatiable people who are demonstrably power-mad, she gets smeared as the RCC candidate or as alt-lite candidate or as the tin foil hat candidate. I guess we love our labels but she’s hardly a conservative – maybe she comes off as the pragmatic libertarian type on account of identifying that arguments generally have two sides and we are better united. It’s hard to think of anything more virtuous than taking that position….in a time when we compete in our virtue and virtue has become more about shouting ideas, subscribing and declaring as opposed your store of virtue being in the way you form your ideas. Dang, we’ve fallen a long ways in a few short years…I suppose we deserve a Dragon in the Aras!

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