Blogger considers legal action over Garda caution at airport

Catherine Kelly stopped by gardaí over social media comments about Regina Doherty

Regina Doherty made a complaint about Catherine Kelly over online and social media comments.

Regina Doherty made a complaint about Catherine Kelly over online and social media comments.

 

A New York-based blogger who was stopped and cautioned by gardaí at Dublin Airport about social media posts she made about Minister for Employment Regina Doherty is considering legal action against gardaí.

The Minister made a criminal complaint of harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 Act over online and social media comments made by Tyrone-born woman, Catherine Kelly. Ms Kelly made a series of criticisms of the Meath East Fine Gael TD about the collapse of a company run by Ms Doherty and her husband eight years ago.

Ms Kelly was approached by two gardaí at the airport on June 27th who asked to confirm her identity and then cautioned her about her social media posts.

Describing the encounter as a “sinister and chilling experience” Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger told the Dáil Ms Kelly was cautioned not to tweet about Ms Doherty or publish any material relevant to her again.

Ms Kelly, whose partner, Jim Cullen, is the head of Friends of Sinn Féin in New York, has hired Irish solicitor Michael Finucane and written to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, alleging she was “falsely imprisoned”.

The complaint by Ms Doherty was made under Section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. It states: “Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, by any means including by use of the telephone, harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her, shall be guilty of an offence.”

It is not known if Ms Doherty was directly contacted by Ms Kelly. Gardaí made the decision to question her at the airport, but it is not known how they knew about her travel plans.

Highly unusual

Garda sources said the decision to issue a caution in such a fashion was highly unusual. Normally gardaí would deal with the matter over the phone or make arrangements to meet by appointment.

Mr Finucane has written to Pearse Street Garda station seeking an explanation. A letter has also been written to Dublin Airport seeking CCTV footage of the incident.

Ms Coppinger said: “She was told to sign a statement. Her name was obviously given to the gardaí by the airline. She was told to sign a statement or she wouldn’t be allowed to proceed to the gate.

“Is it now Government policy to attack anybody who criticises anyone in the Government on social media in this very sinister way in a very legitimate article that was not abusive?” she asked in the Dáil.

Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists said Ms Doherty could sue for defamation if she wished, but did not have the right “to act in a way which sought to undermine” freedom of expression.