Gemma O’Doherty clashes with councillors over collusion claims

Presidential hopeful asked about her claims of collusion in murder of Veronica Guerin

Presidential candidate Gemma O’Doherty: said she had “a constitutional right to my good name”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Presidential candidate Gemma O’Doherty: said she had “a constitutional right to my good name”. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

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Presidential hopeful Gemma O’Doherty clashed with members of Clare County Council on Friday over her claims that there was State collusion in the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.

At a meeting of the council in Ennis to hear pitches from some of those seeking a nomination to contest next month’s election, Ms O’Doherty alleged that Ms Guerin’s brother, Cllr Jimmy Guerin, had defamed her in a tweet posted last weekend about the matter.

Cllr Mary Howard (Fine Gael) asked Ms O’Doherty to account for claims of State collusion in Ms Guerin’s death, over which a number of criminals involved with the John Gilligan gang were convicted.

She read out Mr Guerin’s post in which he said Ms O’Doherty’s claims were “offensive, disgusting and extremely hurtful”.

In response, Ms O’Doherty told Cllr Howard: “Well that is a libellous tweet. I have gone to the High Court before. I hope you are protected by privilege.”

Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Begley said the councillor was not protected by privilege at the meeting. Ms O’Doherty said: “I have now been defamed and I have stated on the record that I can stand over all of my work.”

She added: “Anyone who is interested in finding out the truth about a murdered relative would surely welcome anybody who is shining a light on that, so I cannot understand the reaction of Mr Guerin, but I will not be bullied by anybody.”

Covered up

Ms O’Doherty said she did her work “on behalf of the Irish people” and that if she felt something was being covered up, nothing would silence her. She said she had been told of collusion in the murder by “a decent honest” member of the Garda and that the issue was not put in the public domain as part of her manifesto.

Cllr Cathal Crowe (Fianna Fáil) said Cllr Howard had a right to ask the question as it was “fair game” and that “I don’t think throw-backs of defamation and lawyers help anyone’s cause”.

Ms O’Doherty said she had “a constitutional right to my good name”.

Meanwhile, presidential hopeful Seán Gallagher told Cork County Council members the next five years or so would be an important period in terms of centenaries. He said President Higgins had performed well in the approach and tone he adopted during commemorations to mark centenaries of the 1916 Easter Rising and the 1913 Great Lockout.

“I want to continue this great work and I will be outlining further proposals in this area,” said Mr Gallagher.

Senator Joan Freeman told Sinn Féin Cllr Paul Hayes that she has been campaigning for improved mental health services since she was 17 and would make mental health the theme of her presidency if elected. In particular, she would champion proper mental health services for children with mental health issues who are scandalously neglected at present.

Presentations

Mr Gallagher and Ms Freeman were the only candidates to make presentations to Cork County Council, but councillors can nominate others if they wish once they give three days’ notification to the council. They will vote next Thursday on any nominations they receive.

Separately, Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív has said he is declining offers to run for the presidency as he would “not do anything” that would force him to leave his party or “cause division”.

In a letter sent to Fianna Fáil Galway county councillors, the TD has described an offer by them in July to nominate him as “generous and flattering”.

However, he has outlined four reasons for declining, including the “clear indication by Fianna Fáil spokespersons” that “even if Fianna Fáil councillors supported a county council nomination” that the nominee would be “forced out of the party and would have to stand as an independent”.

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