“Racist: A person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another”
– Oxford English Dictionary
GEMMA O’DOHERTY has become the it girl for Irish extremism: racism, anti-Islamism, homophobia and transphobia. Village published an article in our last edition, by the editor, establishing that there was little in common between O’Doherty and the ethos of this magazine. Since then, five months ago, she has veered further rightwards and, though ideally she should be starved of publicity, it is timely to address these further changes in a comprehensive piece, for the record, albeit in a small magazine.
As is well known, O’Doherty (51) worked as a teacher and then spent twenty years as a journalist for the Irish Independent, rising to become an uncontroversial Chief Features Writer and writing some investigative pieces including most famously about the death of Fr Niall Molloy. She was fired in 2015 as a “rogue reporter” after visiting the Garda Commissioner’s house without editorial permission, to ask him about penalty points. She then took a successful Unfair Dismissals Case. Though most of the Irish media ignored it, it was embarrassing for the Irish Independent as its editor had himself had penalty points cancelled in dubious circumstances.
In 2016 she independently produced a documentary about the death of toddler Mary Boyle.
In late 2017 and 2018 she wrote several articles for Village magazine – on Madeleine McCann; on Sophie Toscan du Plantier; on sex abuse in Donegal and in a Dublin rugby school; and she wrote about her experience before the Charleton Tribunal, with which she was not impressed.
Her cover story on rugby trainer John McClean was excellent and was helpful recently in bringing about his trial on indictment for allegedly abusing boys in Terenure College.
She never ventilated any sort of political view in these articles.
When last year she explicitly declared her intention to run for the Presidency on an anti-corruption ticket expressing her lack of faith in Irish media, Village felt the media should give her a hearing. There were mutterings that she was quietly anti- abortion, anti-vaccination but there was no pattern of this in her journalism and she denied it, particularly in interviews with online news service, Broadsheet.ie, which supported her Presidency bid.
Beyond this there was never any suspicion of intolerance in private conversations with writers from this magazine. There was no sign of it in an interview she gave to progressive Podcast, Echochambers, in March 2018; in a Kitty Holland article in the Irish Times in 2016: ‘Mary Boyle’s disappearance and the 40-year fob-off’; or when on 16 September 2018 Roy Greenslade wrote in the Guardian: “She has built a reputation as a freelance investigative reporter…Now, in an attempt to raise the profile of her concerns about police practices and what she perceives as a lack of press freedom within Ireland, she is attempting to stand for the presidency”.
There was none in a piece by a Washington-based history professor in the Journal of 26 September 2018. And none in a TEDTalk she herself gave in August 2018. As late as during her Presidential bid she was writing to Panti Bliss stating: “I have throughout my career supported the rights of minorities in Ireland including transgender communities, gay families, Travellers, Muslims and victims of state injustice I admire your talent hugely and found your speech about our repressive society inspiring”. This admiration would not last.
An editorial in the October 2018 Village did not endorse O’Doherty for the Presidential election the next month. She appeared to be standing on an attractive anti-corruption and media-sceptical agenda with no right-wing component but Village editorialised that she was “damned for an undue emphasis on a number of conspiracy theories” and endorsed Michael D Higgins.
She did not do well in the Presidential election – she only received one of the four requisite nominations – and was predictably snookered by the media she loathes for stating, without evidence, that journalist Veronica Guerin had been killed by “the State”. Her politics and her platform were never tested. That was a pity, from all perspectives. She just might have been taken down earlier and more directly during the campaign.
It was after that election that her politics appears to have turned. Perhaps this was a reaction to the success of the nastiness of Peter Casey’s campaign which placed him second.
She first toured the country with other anti-corruption activists giving talks, and earlier this year established Anti-Corruption Ireland (ACI) with online members – a “political movement” which promotes “truth, justice and integrity in public office” and which intends to field candidates at all elections though it has not yet registered as a political party.
In April 2019, O’Doherty ran in the European elections as an independent, receiving 1.85% of first preferences in Dublin, finishing 12th out of 19 candidates – a respectable position in itself but not what she would have expected given her high profile and zealous support.
She got in to bed with John Waters, moaning about societal change. In Irish terms this amounted to a 180-degree ideological rotation. For example while O’Doherty had been championed by the libertarian-leaning readership of online news site, Broadsheet.ie, Waters had been vilified. She also developed an affiliation with someone called Amazing Polly, a Canadian version of herself who often appears on her videos, she has a symbiotic relationship with Justin Barrett of the National Party, ‘citizen journalist’ ‘GrandTorino/Rowan Croft’ and Jim Corr of…the Corrs, she often retweets Katie Hopkins, and latterly Donald Trump.
But it is her agenda that appals. She conjures a racial apocalypse on Twitter: On July 13 she Tweeted a video of what she said was “Illegal African migrants storm[ing] the#Pantheon in Paris. Welcome to open borders Europe. It will end in war”. She cites a counter-factual – open borders – and infers something as frightening as a future war. How is this intended to make citizens feel about immigrants?
In May she tweeted without consent a snap of 32 school children in a Longford school – only a third of whom were white – claiming that “Irish people are becoming an ethnic minority”.
According to the Irish Mail, which received no riposte from her she “was slammed as racist by hundreds of furious Twitter followers” for writing: “The changing face of county Longford in rural Ireland”. Context is everything: her hateful commentary met a picture of innocence, distilling dystopian hatred. On the same trip to Longford she visited a shop owned by an elderly Muslim and questioned him about his religion and culture: “any Irish food here? Not really?”, she harangued.
The racism comes primarily from the fact she never refers favourably to Muslims or Africans, but often associates them with extremism and violence. Halal slaughter. Or washing their faces with camel urine. She has referred to Ireland as “a hotbed of radical Islam where Isis terrorists are welcomed home”. Her solution? “Wake up Irish people or start to prepare for Sharia”. “Birmingham was once an Irish city”.
The analysis is factually ungrounded and bigoted: for example she retweeted: “What’s wrong with flooding a tiny island nation with millions of uneducated, unskilled, illiterate males?”.
She posted a video of immigrant teenagers fighting and posted sarcastically (as if it were common practice): “Diversity in Dublin is working out well”.
She is cynical and dismissive of those emigrating in extremis, posting video of a boat full of African men in high spirits: “So when you ask proponents of mass uncontrolled immigration where the women and children migrants are, they say they drowned at sea. If so, why do these guys seem so happy?”.
She has unremittingly assailed Green Councillor Hazel Chu, presumably because her parents are Chinese, saying she is not a patriot and casually tossing around a disrespectful nickname she made up, “Watermelon”: “She’s a watermelon. Green on the outside and red on the inside”.
Very significantly, in March she retweeted a person who suggested Africans have inferior IQ to Caucasians. She has written: “More than 1 in 3 15-year-olds in #Ireland is an immigrant, ahead of France, UK and Germ. 1 in 3 on social housing lists is migrant. 1 in 3 new homeless is a migrant. 1 in 3 live in consistent poverty”. These are lies that deliberately sell our immigrants short. For example she includes second-generation immigrants as migrants and the figure for consistent poverty is actually only 13%.
She provocatively claimed that anti-racism protesters at a rally in Rooskey, Co Roscommon after an asylum centre was burnt, were not locals.
O’Doherty believes Irish people should “reclaim their Irishness”, saying “If that’s racist, great, bring it on!”. She believes Ireland will become Muslim majority posing problems for Ireland’s ”culture”. She highlights alleged high rape rates in Scandinavian countries linked to Muslim immigration and draws attention to violence perpetrated by Muslims in Western countries.
She claims to be against not immigration but mass immigration: “Because I have always stood up for the poor; I see the inequality. That’s my academic background. That’s why I’m against mass immigration, mass uncontrolled immigration as opposed to controlled immigration”. But the venom of her coverage of actual immigrants suggests otherwise.
Taken as a whole her campaigning has clearly become racist. This term annoys her and she has threatened many people including the editor of Village over its use.
Furthermore some of her supporters and others may have been incited, threatening the likes of Chu and autism campaigner Fiona Pettit O’Leary. The web carried a video, quickly removed, of someone showing how to use a scissors to see off immigrant antagonists and two teenage females walking in Dundrum, Co Dublin in mid-August, were attacked by a group of youths: eggs were thrown and the hijab of one of the girls was apparently pulled off.
For all the reasons above, O’Doherty should be prosecuted for incitement to hatred on racial grounds. Indeed, a Dublin City Councillor has lodged a complaint after O’Doherty suggested burning hajibs.
Under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 it is an offence to distribute or broadcast material “likely to stir up hatred”. “Hatred” means: “Hatred against a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their race, colour, nationality, religion, ethnic or national origins, membership of the travelling community or sexual orientation”. (The definition does not address economic status or disability)
As of two years ago there had scandalously been only five convictions for hate crimes over 20 years. The culture is against it.
Her loathing extends well beyond Muslims and Africans. She despises George Soros, an agent of global liberalism who “uses NGOs to undermine democracy”. She lists an array of media and political villains: the Irish Times, RTE, INM, Communicorp, Virgin Media, FG, FF, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Green Party and she has a particular antipathy to the Social Democrats, People before Profit and the Anti Austerity Alliance who, with others, she sees as ‘Cultural Marxists’.
She is nuttily of the belief that climate change is a hoax: “Every Mainstream Media story you read about #ClimateChange is #fakenews. It’s a scam by the elite to terrify people and implement fascistic controls on their way of life. Stop being fooled by their lies. Support Irish farmers today and enjoy your meat (just not Halal)”.
She is also anti-trans. A typical Tweet read: “How to debunk transgender madness in two minutes: Shame on @dunnesstores stocking this filth [including unicorns which are symbolic of trangenderism]. Please ask all stores to remove symbols of transgender ideology from children’s sections”. And anti-LGBT: she tweeted a photo of what she claimed was a “Polish boy stopping an LGBT+++ march with his Cross. The Polish remember their history. The Irish appear to have forgotten theirs”.
And her solicitation of Panti’s support was belied less than a month after the President was inaugurated when she said parents who “tolerate” their children attending LGBT days at schools “have only themselves to blame”.
Latterly she has been taking an ever more religious stance: a video featured O’Doherty condemning a multi-faith room in Dublin Airport because of the absence of crosses and an altar. She stated that she had been banned from filming in the room, even though the “Irish people own the airport”. The Dublin Airport Authority countered that there is a dedicated Roman Catholic church at the airport. It informed O’Doherty that her filming had been curtailed because “a) you had not sought or been granted the required permission to film at the airport b) we do not permit political campaigning on the airport campus and c) all mobile phones and devices should be switched off in the multi- faith room”.
She recently castigated the Garda for showing “Shameful disrespect to Jesus Christ”. And she is solidly anti-abortion: “The tide is turning against the culture of death and killing the most innocent”. She is also more overtly nationalist and venerates the 1916 leaders who she feels would not have embraced multiculturalism: “If Irish people want to be a minority in #Ireland, that is their decision but they have been given no choice…I don’t believe those who sacrificed their lives for Ireland would want it”.
Some of her views are just wacko. She’s dangerously hostile to some vaccinations. In mid-August she tweeted: “Wondering why the skies over Ireland look so artificial? The psychopathic elite are blocking the sun from us and poisoning the air above us with chemicals. This is genocide”.
It is long past time for noting overlaps between Village’s agenda and O’Doherty’s. They used to centre on anti-corruption and scepticism as to the zeal and fairness of the media.
Village is driven by a clearly-stated political agenda and focuses on politics not personalities. It promotes equality, sustainability, and accountability.
As to the first two of these, Gemma O’Doherty derides the equality agenda, believes climate action has gone too far and that wind farms are “sinister”, and specialises in bullying communications about the most vulnerable groups in our society. As to the third, she is strong on accountability for her antagonists though not necessarily in her own case. She is a free agent and it is not clear where she gets funding for her ambitious travelling or indeed for what seems to be a full-time activity. Nor is it clear who she even sees herself as accountable to or what she regards as her ethical parameters. Frighteningly a recent video advises judges to be very very careful “when we create this new Ireland, when we take this country back”. An obvious ques- tion is: Does she receive any funding from the US – much of her agenda, including her antipathy to George Soros – is US-centred? O’Doherty has moved from ostensible tolerance to flexible politics to conspiracy theory to God and Country to Patriotism and a fully-fledged racism. Village’s attitude to her has had to evolve as her own politics has spiralled.
Goodwill is deserting O’Doherty. In March and April hotels in Cork and a pub in Sligo cancelled meetings she planned, because she was inflaming the situation after the Christchurch Muslim murders – and she has run into big trouble with Youtube which, after some warnings, closed down her channel permanently in July because of her incendiary videos which violate its policy against hate speech. O’Doherty consistently says they have no evidence that she engages in hate speech, but she is wrong.
She has organised an ongoing protest at Google, Youtube’s parent, on Barrow St in Dublin. Latterly those protests have grown very nasty.
On 12 August a good-natured counter-demonstration was organised opposite the ACI protest.
During the protest, a young man gave two Nazi salutes from within the ranks of ACI.
O’Doherty Tweeted: “Oh dear. That didn’t go so well. #NaziPlant needs to go back to acting school. As for his minders, they work for an actual Nazi collaborator George Soros. Nice try lads, but nobody is fooled. Now back to kindergarten. We have a country to save”.
A persuasive video by Gearóid Murphy, an O’Doherty supporter with a history of posting offensive Tweets, aired on Broadsheet.ie, notes that it is unbelievable that nobody knows who the Naziboy is – suggesting he is a “foreign plant”; that the main people to benefit from the video are the anti-Gemma brigade; that Naziboy seems to be readying his salutes up for pictures; that activist Mark Malone was extraordinarily well teed up to take shots of the two instances when the Naziboy did his salutes; that Malone processed the photos with suspicious speed and efficacy as if he’d been waiting for them; and that allegations that others in the crowd also saluted can be shown to be absolutely false. He concludes that Mark Malone, an informed and courageous activist with a longstanding antipathy to fascism, orchestrated the salute to damage O’Doherty.
Malone denied any involvement to Village and said he has no desire to comment much on recent accusations:
“Given my work in supporting those affected by British undercover policing – and affected by the use of agent provocateurs in political demonstrations – on both jurisdictions on the island, it is a ludicrous suggestion that I would undertake to plan, find and subsequently disappear a ‘Nazi saluting plant’. Just so a photo could be taken to make some far-right YouTubers and hangers-on ‘look bad’?
As I say, the ‘response’ from those that shared the demonstration with a person raising the salute is almost a self-caricature of itself. These men run home to their respective bedrooms and spend days poring over online footage in super slow-motion and each make a video promoting yet another conspiracy theory”.
While O’Doherty is one of the nastiest forces in Irish politics, and getting ever nastier, she has been careful not to hitch herself to clearcut fascism. It would be unfair to call O’Doherty a Nazi now.
Village is offering €1000 for the first person to email the magazine definitively identifying Naziboy who may well be German, by name.
In a single perhaps ill-advised Tweet this magazine claimed that the sending to trial in July of paedophile John McClean followed the Village article, by O’Doherty, reviving interest in the dead matter. Some have concluded that Village is compromised about O’Doherty, perhaps because it suits them to undermine an organ taking a coherent leftist, rather than single-issue, stance on this or any matter.
But while Village doesn’t shirk from taking tough stances it withholds a view until the facts are clear. O’Doherty’s politics were not offensive until some time after Village published its last piece by her. It published her journalism not her opinions and this magazine criticised her from the earliest moment that was appropriate. Village does not agree with all the views of all its contributors, nor could it or should it, but it has a policy of not publishing Rightist commentary, partly because it has ample other outlets.
In mid August the magazine’s editor asked Fiona Pettit O’Leary, one of the leaders of the opposition to the ACI demonstration and a champion of the rights of people with autism, to write an article for the magazine outlining the threats she had received from O’Doherty supporters, including one to burn her house down, and one from O’Doherty to have her “dealt with”, and the need for reform of the law to embrace inciting hatred to people with disabilities. But without replying to the magazine she Tweeted that she would not, because of Village’s role in “promoting” O’Doherty. She subsequently complained that the media were not covering her disgraceful treatment.
Reflecting the ethereal over-estimation of the significance of Twitter in certain circles another of the anti-ACI leaders, Izzy Kamikaze, rather unsuccessfully invited followers to unfollow Village for its Tweet referencing the McClean article. But it emerged that Izzy Kamikaze admitted that she herself used systematically to send Tweets on O’Doherty’s behalf and had also Tweeted saying that she would always acknowledge the importance of O’Doherty’s journalism. Both these stances tended to undermine her inexplicable hostility to Village for Tweeting about an O’Doherty article it had published before she lost any sense.
O’Doherty is highly litigious, using celebrity Belfast-stationed lawyer Paul Tweed as she did in her successful case for Unfair Dismissal against Independent Newspapers after she pursued the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan more assiduously than some at the newspaper could take.
A piece about Rooskey in Broad sheet.ie was removed after legal correspondence. She also received an apology from Newstalk in mid- August after a guest on one of its radio programmes, Leah Doherty, the organiser of the rally, claimed that online racism was feeding into the rhetoric of “people like Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters”, and in mid-August she listed a defamation action in the High Court against Panti Bliss who has demonstrated against her presence on Barrow St.
O’Doherty is deeply unfashionable politically in Ireland, 31,000 Twitter followers and all. She is in little danger of doing the body politic much harm as she swings to the ultimate extremes of the Right, though she may spawn successors. Who knows where she will end politically but it will not finish well.
Meanwhile Village will continue to publish investigative journalism on the basis of the journalism rather than the author, unless the author shows evidence of failing to recognise democratic norms. Once O’Doherty revealed herself as racist she was no longer welcome in these pages. Expecting the magazine to have dropped the welcome pre-emptively is unfair and naïve.