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'More censorship': Row in Dáil as TD asks why gardaí spoke to professor over Regina Doherty blog

Blogger and academic Catherine Kelly claims she was cautioned by gardaí about her social media posts and online articles which referenced Regina Doherty.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THE CASE OF a US-based academic, who criticised Fine Gael Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty and her business dealings in a blog and was subsequently stopped by gardaí at Dublin Airport, was raised in the Dáil today.

Writing on the Jude Collins blog, Tyrone-born academic Catherine Kelly claimed she was recently approached by gardaí from Pearse Street Garda Station who, upon confirming her identity and her Twitter handle, cautioned her about her social media posts and online articles which referenced Regina Doherty.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Doherty confirmed to TheJournal.ie that a complaint was made to gardaí regarding a political academic.

“A complaint has been made to the gardaí, however it would be inappropriate to comment as Garda inquiries (are ongoing) and a Garda investigation is underway,” the spokesperson told TheJournal.ie.

Any individual has the right to make a complaint to the gardaí should they believe that they are being subjected to unlawful activity.

The article which is understood to have caused the complaint was published online earlier this year, and dealt with the liquidation of a company run by Doherty and her husband in 2013.

90423388_90423388 Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Raising the issue under the Promised Legislation time slot, Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger queried when the Passenger Name Record Bill will be introduced to the Dáil.

‘Sinister and chilling experience’ 

She then asked would the Bill take up the issue of the “sinister and chilling experience” of Kelly at the airport last week.

“Catherine Kelly who was stopped at the airport by plain clothes gardaí, asked for her name, if she used social media and if she had written an article about Minister Regina Doherty, that a complaint had been made and she was cautioned not to tweet minister Doherty or any material relevant to her,” said Coppinger.

“She was told to sign a statement. Her name was obviously given to the gardaí by the airline. She was told to sign a statement or she wouldn’t be allowed to proceed to the gate,” she continued.

She pointed out that Kelly had “merely raised” issues about the minister’s company dealings.

Liquidation 

The liquidation of the minister’s company, which bought and sold surplus IT components, in January 2013 saw the company fold with debts outstanding of €280,000.

The company ceased trading at the height of the downturn in 2009.

In May 2016, Doherty described the circumstances surrounding the liquidation in an interview with RTÉ, and reiterated that she hadn’t “broken the law”.

As Coppinger continued, she was interrupted by the Leas Ceann Comhairle, Pat the Cope Gallagher, who said the issue should not be raised during Promised Legislation speaking time.

“More censorship,” shouted, Solidarity-PBP TD Mick Barry.

“Withdraw that, that this is censorship,” replied the Leas Ceann Comhairle, who said he was just complying with and implementing the regulations of the House.

“Is it now government policy to attack anybody that criticises anyone in the government on social media in this very sinister way in a very legitimate article that was not abusive,” asked Coppinger.

Education Minister Richard Bruton, who was standing in for the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald for Leaders’ Questions today, did not address the matter.

He told Coppinger that preparatory work is currently being done on the Passenger Name Record Bill in the Department of Justice. He then resumed his seat.

Comments are closed for legal reasons. 

Additional reporting by Cianan Brennan

Read: Fine Gael minister confirms complaint lodged with gardaí against political blogger>

Change to Leo’s campaign: Only those convicted of fraud over €5,000 to have names published>

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