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Firing of Gemma O’Doherty may serve to silence investigative journalists in Ireland

TI Ireland calls for Ms O’Doherty’s reinstatement and review of editorial policies at Irish newspapers

Dublin, 19 September 2013

The sacking of an award-winning investigative journalist who had reported on Garda malpractice could deter other reporters from exposing the abuse of power in Ireland. Gemma O’Doherty, an investigative reporter and chief features writer at the Irish Independent newspaper, was dismissed last month. The Guardian newspaper and Phoenix Magazine report that her dismissal followed an investigation into the cancellation of penalty points awarded against Martin Callinan, the Garda (Irish Police) Commissioner.

Ms O’Doherty was investigating unlawful cancellations and changes in traffic police records by senior gardaí and also found that the Garda Commissioner had penalty points cancelled after he was detected speeding in his own car. The Commissioner insists that he was speeding while on official Garda business.

Ms O’Doherty has worked with the Irish Independent for 16 years and has won numerous awards for her reporting, including Campaigning Journalist of the Year. Her reports into the failure of prosecutors and the Gardaí to fully investigate the death in suspicious circumstances of Roscommon priest Fr. Niall Molloy, led to the reopening of the case in 2010.

The National Union of Journalists has stated that Ms O’Doherty has been unfairly treated and is supporting her case for unfair dismissal. TI Ireland is calling for her reinstatement, and for the introduction of editorial policies that protect the independence of investigative journalists and editorial staff at all newspaper groups in Ireland.  

Late last year, TI Ireland also highlighted the potential chilling effect of legal threats against Irish journalists and commentators during a meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the threat of litigation against Irish journalists in her report to the UN General Assembly. She called for aggrieved parties to use the Press Council and Press Ombudsman to resolve complaints about the fairness and accuracy of coverage.

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Contact: John Devitt – info@transparency.ie; 01 871 9433

This statement was amended on 20 September to acknowledge the role of Phoenix magazine in breaking the story. Apologies to everyone at Phoenix for the oversight.