Regina Doherty blogger controversy private, Taoiseach says

Catherine Kelly stopped by gardaí over social media comments about Minister

Regina Doherty: Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he had a “brief conversation” with the Minister for Social Protection  and understood she had complained to the Garda about harassment. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Regina Doherty: Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he had a “brief conversation” with the Minister for Social Protection and understood she had complained to the Garda about harassment. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The controversy surrounding an allegation of harassment made by Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty against a New York-based blogger is a private matter, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar was replying in the Dáil on Tuesday to Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, who referred to “a very strange and very serious allegation” that Ms Doherty had made a complaint to the Garda that was responded to.

Mr Varadkar said it was clearly a private matter, not one of public policy. “It is one involving two individuals; one individual who felt she was being harassed by another.” The Taoiseach said any further questions should be addressed to Ms Doherty.

It emerged last week that the Tyrone-born blogger, Catherine Kelly, was stopped and cautioned by gardaí at Dublin Airport about remarks about Ms Doherty that she had posted on social media.

The Minister made a criminal complaint of harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 over online and social-media comments by Ms Kelly relating to the collapse of a company run by Ms Doherty and her husband eight years ago.

Garda caution

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil he had a “brief conversation” with Ms Doherty and he understood she complained to the Garda about harassment. “The gardaí thought it sufficient to caution the individual against whom the complaint was made,” he said.

In the Dáil last week the Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger said Ms Kelly had “a sinister and chilling experience” at the airport. She said Ms Kelly had been stopped by two plain-clothed gardaí who asked her name, if she used social media and if she had written an article about the Minister and her business dealings.

Ms Kelly was told a complaint had been made and cautioned not to tweet the Minister or any material relevant to her again, Ms Coppinger added.

Ms Kelly, whose partner, Jim Cullen, is the head of Friends of Sinn Féin in New York, is considering legal action against the Garda.

She has hired the Irish solicitor Michael Finucane and written to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to allege that she was falsely imprisoned.

Mr Finucane has also asked Pearse Street Garda station for an explanation and written to Dublin Airport, seeking CCTV footage of the incident.