Gemma O’Doherty settles defamation case

Last June, the good folks at Rabble published an article I put together on the dismissal of Gemma O’Doherty from the Irish Independent.

While an employee getting dismissed from their job is nothing new, Gemma was the only journalist in 28 redundancies at Independent News and Media (INM).

She had been working for the paper for 16 years as a senior features writer, and her compulsory redundancy came after her investigative efforts into the penalty points controversy.

The issue involved O’Doherty calling to the house of then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan to enquire as to whether he had points wiped from his licence.

Stephen Rae, editor-in-chief of Independent titles described O’Doherty as a “rogue reporter” for daring to approach Callinan without permission. Rae used to be the editor of the Garda Review magazine.

Ms O’Doherty decided to sue the Irish Independent for defamation as a result of her treatment.

The paper apologised for the stress and hardship caused to her as a result of its actions.

They have also agreed to pay her an undisclosed sum in damages and will cover her legal costs.

She had already settled for unfair dismissal before the Christmas.

She said that today’s apology in the high court was another complete vindication of her character.

Over the last year or so, the question of media ownership was one that cropped up time and time again in relation to these types of cases.

Not many Irish publications covered her dismissal, nor did they shine much light on her case before the Christmas.

At the time of my original article, Paddy Prendeville, editor of The Phoenix pointed out that taking on one of the most powerful media organisations in Ireland was a brave move.

The Irish Post and The Guardian were the only publications who questioned the circumstances around O’Doherty’s dismissal. Both based in the UK coincidentally enough.

Robert Mulhern of The Irish Post pointed out that there was no journalistic reason not to cover the original O’Doherty story.

“On its own, the story is a matter of public interest”, Mulhern said.

Phonenix magazine and Broadsheet did cover her dismissal, but they would hardly be considered large mainstream publications.

Roy Greenslade followed the story from the beginning in The Guardian, and when I contacted him way back when, he pointed out the failure of the Irish media to jump on her story as “a problem of a small, narrowly owned, press in a small country.”

Today, he wrote how INM offered a “grovelling apology” to Ms O’Doherty.

The apology reads as follows:

“Independent Newspapers wish to acknowledge the exceptional work of multi-award winning investigative journalist Gemma O’Doherty for the Irish Independent during the course of a lengthy career.

Independent Newspapers accept that Gemma O’Doherty has acted at all times in a professional and diligent manner and in the best interests of Independent Newspapers.

Independent Newspapers unreservedly apologises to Ms O’Doherty for the stress and hardship caused to her and her husband as a result of its actions.

Independent Newspapers have agreed to pay to Ms O’Doherty undisclosed damages and to indemnify her in relation to her legal costs”.

Sources: RTE, The Guardian, Rabble, Interviews

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