Defamation

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“Rogue Reporter” Settles Claim for Defamation by a Former Employer

A journalist, who was called a “rogue reporter” after being made redundant from her job, has settled her claim for defamation by a former employer.

Gemma O´Doherty is an award-winning journalist who broke a number of high-profile stories for the Irish Independent over the course of her eighteen years with the newspaper. In April 2013, Gemma was investigating the wiping of driving licence penalty points by the Irish police force when she called at the home of the former Irish police commissioner, Martin Callinan – who also had penalty points deleted from his licence.

A complaint was made to the newspaper, following which Gemma was told she was being made redundant – the only employee of Independent News & Media to suffer that fate. The Irish Independent maintained that the Callinan visit played no part in her departure; however Gemma was subsequently described as a “rogue reporter” by Stephen Rae – editor-in-chief of the Irish Independent – for approaching the former police commissioner without editorial permission.

Gemma launched an unfair dismissal action and made a claim for defamation by a former employer against Stephen Rae and Independent News & Media. In December 2014, her unfair dismissal action was resolved out-of-court, and this week the High Court was told that Gemma´s claim for defamation by a former employer had also been settled.

The terms of the settlement have not been revealed, but they included an apology to Gemma from Stephen Rae and Independent News & Media which was read out to the court. In the statement, the newspaper and its editor-in-chief acknowledged that Gemma “acted at all times in a diligent and professional manner” and apologised unreservedly for the stress and hardship she and her husband had suffered as a result of the newspaper´s actions.

Speaking after the hearing, Gemma said: “Journalists have an obligation to hold power to account, be it in An Garda Síochána, Dail Eireann, the health service or other institutions of the state. We must be allowed to do our work without fear or favour, defending the public interest and the rights of citizens, especially victims of injustice and the marginalised”.