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Complaint of 'derogatory' language used by Fianna Fáil leader against journalist rejected

Gemma O’Doherty had alleged that Micheál Martin had spoken about her in a ‘derogatory and unfair’ manner on Newstalk radio.

pjimage Micheál Martin (l), and Gemma O'Doherty Source: Rollingnews.ie

A COMPLAINT MADE by journalist Gemma O’Doherty regarding an appearance by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Newstalk radio has been dismissed in its latest round of decisions by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

O’Doherty, a former reporter with the Irish Independent, had complained to the BAI regarding the interview given by Martin on Newstalk’s Lunchtime programme on 10 May 2016.

Martin had been discussing the case of Mary Boyle, the six-year-old girl who disappeared in Donegal in 1977. Two weeks prior to the interview O’Doherty claimed that he had met both her and Mary’s sister Ann, at which time they informed him that the case was “a grotesque Garda cover-up involving a politician”.

On the programme, Martin stated that “Gemma O’Doherty does not believe in An Garda Síochána and does not have faith in them”.

O’Doherty, in her complaint, claimed that Martin’s subsequent comments, in which he said he had “serious concerns” concerning her “political commentary”, were “derogatory and unfair” to her. She also claimed that he had implied that she thought TDs should be ‘judge, jury, and prosecutors’.

Newstalk, in its rebuttal, said it was “unfortunate” that O’Doherty was disappointed with the way they handled the matter, and said that she had rung the station to complain while the programme was on air.

The station said that Martin’s comments were made “in the context of the Mary Boyle disappearance” and the recent meeting he had had with O’Doherty and Mary Boyle’s sister. It also said that her view in respect of the gardaí “had been widely reported in the media already”.

O’Doherty’s complaints were made under the Broadcasting Act 2009 and certain sections of both the BAI’s Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs and its Code of Programme Standards.

In response, the BAI determined that the audience would have understood that Martin’s comments regarding O’Doherty and the gardaí were “clearly relating to the case of the disappearance of Mary Boyle rather than being remarks suggesting that the complainant had no faith in An Garda Síochána or the justice system as a whole”.

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The committee stated that, while Martin’s pronouncements would have been problematic “if taken in isolation”, they “could not be considered in isolation from the discussion as a whole”.

It likewise noted the fact that Newstalk had given the complainant an offer of a clarification to be read out on air, and that this offer was not taken as O’Doherty wished to sort out her views on air in person.

Having reviewed the matter, the BAI did not agree with the complainant that the broadcast infringed the Broadcasting Act and the BAI’s own codes, and rejected her complaint.

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