Award-winning journalist Gemma O'Doherty
Journalist Gemma O'Doherty has written to Carlow County Council seeking their nomination for the presidency.
Independent Senator Joan Freeman, businessman Gavin Duffy, artist Kevin Sharkey and former general election candidate in Galway West, Patrick Feeney, made presentations to members earlier this month seeking the Council's nomination also.
In her letter, Gemma acknowledges the limitations of the presidency but added: "I do believe its role as protector of the Constitution allows it to send out a strong message about the rights and welfare of citizens, especially in times of national crisis.
"I would like Áras an Uachtaráin to be seen as a compassionate sanctuary for groups of citizens who have been neglected by the state including victims of child sexual abuse, bereaved families denied justice for their loved ones, people affected by the housing and health crises, victims of state corruption, whistleblowers who have acted in the public interest, and people whose freedom of speech and expression have been curtailed."
The 49-year-old concluded: "I would ask that you support my request for this nomination as an exercise in constitutional democracy on behalf of your constituents.
"I seek your support to ensure that they would have an opportunity to decide on the merits on my candidacy in the upcoming election."
A presidential election is expected to be held in October if candidates receive the backing of 20 or more Oireachtas members or four or more local authorities.
Formal nominations won't be made until after the presidential election order is made and therefore Council members are not likely to vote on a potential candidate until the September meeting of the local authority.
The local authority members can still vote to nominate Gemma, even though she didn't present to them on August 15.
The full letter from Gemma to the Council members can be read below:
I write regarding the upcoming election for President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann) to seek your nomination as a member of a Council as provided for in Article 12 (Section 4, 2, ii) of the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht Na hÉireann).
In seeking your nomination, I am aware of the changing political landscape in our country and the increased number of independents and smaller parties in whom is vested the power to make such a nomination on behalf of your constituents.
I welcome this change providing as it does an opportunity for a politics, and in this case potentially a President, that is a true alternative to those nominated and supported by the traditional political parties since the Constitution was enacted in 1937.
My interest in this nomination is in furtherance of my desire to serve the cause of truth, honesty and integrity for, and on behalf of, the Irish people. I believe our relatively young nation is suffering from a culture of corruption and clientelism in many public offices and institutions and that this culture is immensely damaging to our people and the country’s reputation.
The inequality that blights our Republic and manifests itself in the current housing emergency and ongoing crises in our health services was generated through policies practiced behind a curtain of systematic institutional corruption in high office, government, planning offices, county councils, An Garda Siochana, in our banking and financial sector and our construction industry.
It is a culture that is often covered up or ignored by our media too. Scandal after scandal, tribunal after tribunal, has seen Ireland rot from its core out, as our people sometimes suffer horribly to enrich the few, at the cost of the many. The Irish people rarely see accountability when corruption is revealed in public office. I believe that has made them deeply cynical towards the political establishment and created an unhealthy attitude towards democracy.
In seeking your nomination, I want to see a new type of Presidency for a young forward looking Ireland, an Ireland determined to shed the shame of the past, an Ireland seeking to build a Republic based on equality, democracy and justice. Ethics and transparency in high and public office must become a given. I wish to take part in a campaign, and a Presidency, which discusses these issues and shines a light into dark corners.
While I fully understand the limitations of the Presidency, I do believe its role as protector of the Constitution allows it to send out a strong message about the rights and welfare of citizens, especially in times of national crisis.
I would like Áras an Uachtaráin to be seen as a compassionate sanctuary for groups of citizens who have been neglected by the state including victims of child sexual abuse, bereaved families denied justice for their loved ones, people affected by the housing and health crises, victims of state corruption, whistleblowers who have acted in the public interest, and people whose freedom of speech and expression have been curtailed.
I believe I have a long track record in exposing corruption and wrongdoing within our state, giving a voice to the voiceless in my endeavours to do so.
A number of murders I have investigated have been reopened by the Gardai including that of Fr Niall Molloy, and Mary Boyle, our longest and youngest missing person. My documentary about that case won a number of international awards and has been viewed almost one million times. When it was released in July 2016, large marches took place around the country and the Gardai immediately ‘reopened’ the file.
My work on the Sophie Toscan Du Plantier murder recently exposed the terrifying lengths the justice system has taken to set up an innocent man.
I was one of the first journalists to support whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson. At the time, I was Chief Features Writer with the Irish Independent and was unlawfully dismissed shortly after Denis O’Brien’s takeover for refusing to be silenced about my investigation into the quashing of penalty points from the driving licence of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. I was subsequently vindicated in the High Court.
Following my dismissal, I organised a series of trips for victims of state injustice to foreign parliaments including Stormont, Brussels, Westminster and Washington DC where they were able to tell their stories to international MPs. I recently visited Strasbourg with the office of Luke Ming Flanagan MEP to urge Digital Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to remove INM’s Stephen Rae from a taxpayer-funded expert group set up to tackle ‘fake news’.
My investigation into widespread historical child sexual abuse at Dublin’s exclusive Terenure College, run by the Carmelite Order, has resulted in dozens of victims coming forward and a file finally going to the DPP in recent months.
My work on the Madeleine McCann disappearance exposed grave ‘errors’ in the BBC’s reporting of the case which they were forced to correct following publication of my investigation.
I have strong journalistic credentials on matters relating to the protection of the environment. I spent a period in the Middle East where I witnessed firsthand the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israel. I believe the Presidency could send out a strong message about their plight.
I won Campaigning Journalist of the Year for my work on the treatment of asylum seekers and the mandatory fluoridation of water in Ireland. I was given a national media award for my articles on new cancer treatments. I was one of the first journalists to bring transgender issues to the fore in Ireland’s national media.
I have been nominated Crime and Security writer of the year. I was recently honoured by President Higgins as a ‘Hero of Irish storytelling’ at the Feile na Laoch in Cork.
I am currently organising town-hall meetings in counties around Ireland raising awareness about corruption and giving citizens a forum in which to discuss issues that have affected them.
I am a strong advocate for press freedom and freedom of speech and was selected earlier this year as a ‘journalist in residence’ for the EU-funded European Centre for Press and Media Freedom in Germany. I visit Irish schools and universities around the country highlighting the important role of media diversity in a democracy. This is one of several themes I would like to pursue as President. I would also like to shine a light on the narcissistic culture that has gripped Ireland whereby individuals appear to have a high tolerance for abuse resulting in loss of self-esteem and dignity.
I am also deeply concerned about the culture of homogeneous globalisation in Ireland which is affecting indigenous businesses and farmers producing local goods and services.
I hope that my track record shows I have worked without fear or favour in highlighting injustice done to citizens. I commit to bringing that same energy and determination to expose wrongdoing to this campaign and, if successful, to the office of President.
I am 49 years of age and from Ranelagh in Dublin. I have a BA in Politics and a Master’s Degree in Equality Studies from UCD. I worked as a teacher before I became a journalist. I lived in Spain for a number of years and have travelled extensively, including within the developing world.
While I have lived in Dublin for most of my life, I have a wide knowledge of rural affairs.
In conclusion, I would ask that you support my request for this nomination as an exercise in constitutional democracy on behalf of your constituents. I seek your support to ensure that they would have an opportunity to decide on the merits on my candidacy in the upcoming election.
I am available to present my manifesto to you in person at the next available opportunity.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.