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Gemma O’Doherty says idea of misleading followers ‘anathema’ to her – The Irish Times

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Gemma O’Doherty has told the High Court she did not set out to mislead her internet followers over the use of the words “paedophile brother of Veronica Guerin”.

She said the most important thing to her as a journalist “is to tell the truth because this book [pointing to the witness-box Bible} is the most important book for me and at the end of the day I believe I am only accountable to God”.

She continued: “The idea I could mislead my 65,000 followers is just anathema to me and I could not get into the mind of a person who could do that.”

She was giving evidence on the third day of defamation proceedings brought by councillor Jimmy Guerin, a brother of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin, over certain Facebook and Twitter posts, and an internet broadcast on Gemma.TV/Gemmaodohertytv.com in July 2019.

In them she referred to the “paedophile brother” of Veronica Guerin or “how the brother of Veronica Guerin” was freed on bail pending sentence on charges of possession of hundreds of images of child pornography in 2019. The brother in fact was Jimmy’s older brother Martin (73) who later received a suspended sentence.

Jimmy Guerin said the posts and comments referred to him. He said they were made deliberately and out of malice as a result of a contribution he made in 2018 to a Fingal County Council meeting from which Ms O’Doherty had sought support for her nomination in the presidential election.

At that meeting, he accused Ms O’Doherty, among other things, of being offensive, disgusting and attempting to capitalise on the death of Veronica by saying there was State involvement in her murder.

Ms O’Doherty denies defamation. She claims it was Cllr Guerin who acted maliciously towards her in response to what she said was the truth about State involvement. A defamation case she took against Cllr Guerin over those comments was struck out last year.

Ms O’Doherty told the court she was an award-winning journalist of nearly 20 years for the Irish Independent with particular interests in State corruption and exposing child sex abuse.

The reason she put up the posts about the “paedophile brother” of Veronica Guerin was there had been “public outrage that yet another well-connected abuser had walked free from court” and his case had taken five years to come to court because of his connections.

Asked by her counsel Feargal Kavanagh SC about Jimmy Guerin’s allegation that she could have put something other than she did into her posts to make sure there was no possibility of mistaken identity, she said most of the mainstream media had only referred to the “brother of Veronica Guerin”. She had stated “paedophile brother” and there was only one paedophile brother and that was Martin.

In relation to a response on Facebook to her post asking if the “paedophile brother” was the same man who “was up on his high horse during Gemma’s presidential campaign, she said that as one of the most followed (on social media) journalists in Ireland at the time, she did not read all comments because she would have to spend days doing it.

She thought it was unusual for Jimmy not to have first picked up the phone and talked about what she had said about State involvement in Veronica’s death. Instead, he went into a Fingal council meeting “and destroyed my good name”.

She did not get a chance to run for election as she did not get enough support for a presidential nomination.

She also said: “I have since discovered our election system was rigged anyway and all I wanted to do was take this country off the road it is going down to destruction”.

Under cross-examination by Ronan Lupton SC, for Mr Guerin, she repeatedly rejected that she intended to refer to Jimmy or else cause confusion.

She also said this was now a case about a politician trying to bankrupt and make homeless a journalist because the only remedy Cllr Guerin wanted was money. If Cllr Guerin was “hard up, maybe we could have a fundraiser”, she said.

Counsel put it to her that she invited her followers not to believe the mainstream media but still expected them to know it was Martin who was convicted, and not Jimmy, from reading the mainstream media. She replied: “You know and Cllr Guerin knows I was not talking about him.”

The case continues before a jury and Mr Justice Tony O’Connor.



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