Journalist Gemma O’Doherty running for ‘the wrong house’, councillors suggest

Prospective presidential candidate says she has no intention of standing for Oireachtas

Investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty was one of four prospective presidential election candidates to address a special meeting of Westmeath County Council in Mullingar on Monday afternoon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty was one of four prospective presidential election candidates to address a special meeting of Westmeath County Council in Mullingar on Monday afternoon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

If Gemma O’Doherty is elected president of Ireland she may find that she is “in the wrong house” to achieve her objectives, according to a number of Westmeath county councillors.

The investigative journalist was one of four prospective presidential election candidates to address a special meeting of Westmeath County Council in Mullingar on Monday afternoon.

Speaking at the meeting she said that “a culture of corruption is, unfortunately, thriving within the state”, which is“breeding an awful lot of cynicism among the public towards the political elite and towards other institutions of the state”.

“I believe the presidency could reflect the sort of standards that society is aspiring to. That citizens would feel that the presidency is something we should look up to and set the standards for the sort of democracy that we want to live in where all citizens are treated equally where citizens have a right to affordable housing, to decent healthcare.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke said Ms O’Doherty raised “hard-hitting, headline political issues”.

“I was just wondering if you were to get to Áras an Uachtaráin might you find yourself in the wrong house?”

Cllr Michael O’Brien inquired if she would “achieve a lot more” by running for election to Leinster House.

Ms O’Doherty replied that at the moment she has “absolutely no intention of doing that [running for the Oireachtas] as the Dáil is not “serving the citizens of the country fairly or equally”.

“I do believe that the boundaries of the presidency have not been pushed out by other presidents. I think there is absolutely no reason why the president cannot speak out about issues.”

Businessman Gavin Duffy, who spoke before Ms O’Doherty, said the president has the “soft power to motivate and inspire debate on important issues that are, ultimately, resolved through politics”.

One of the “pillars” of his campaign, if elected president, would be “respect”, he told councillors.

“How to end shaming in our society, attacking one another over body image or sexual orientation, particularly as it affects our young people who suffer severe cyberbullying.”

Mr Duffy also revealed that if he gains the four local authority nominations required to run in the election he and his wife have made plans to “mortgage” their home to fund his campaign.

The first two prospective presidential candidates to address the meeting were former civil servant Marie Goretti Moylan from Athlone and Roscommon farmer John Groarke.

Ms Moylan said that if he elected president, she would prioritise the promotion of the arts and would also like to encourage children to become more physically active.

Referring to her visual impairment, she said that she would like to show “that people with disabilities can do just as much as people without disabilities”.

Mr Groarke described himself as an “ordinary person, a country fella”. While the “educated people” who have held the office of the presidency in the past “all did fine jobs”, they have “nothing in common with the poor”, he said.