Judge to decide whether to recuse himself from harassment case against Gemma O’Doherty

Defendant asks that case be put back to October as she ‘has a life’ and many commitments

A judge is to decide whether or not he should hear a High Court action over the alleged harassment of a woman by Gemma O’Doherty because she says he once represented a former Garda commissioner.

Earlier this week, Ms O’Doherty, editor of the Irish Light publication, was arrested outside her home over her failure to turn up in the High Court to answer a contempt application against her in relation to the harassment case.

She was freed by Mr Justice Conor Dignam to allow her get papers she said she needed to contest the case. The matter was adjourned to Friday when Ms O’Doherty attended court with what she said was a suitcase packed for her to go to Mountjoy Women’s Prison.

About 30 of her supporters who packed into the small courtroom cheered her on arrival, some waving crucifixes, while several others who could not be accommodated remained outside the door, some reading prayer books. A garda requested that the supporters not record video or take photos, which is strictly forbidden in Irish courtrooms or their precincts.


Ms O’Doherty immediately complained about the choice of a small courtroom to Mr Justice Dignam. The judge said he had no control over the allocation of courtrooms and that from enquiries he made there was no other larger option available.

Ms O’Doherty told the judge he should recuse himself from hearing the case on the basis that before he was appointed to the bench he, as a barrister, had acted for former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

Ms O’Doherty claimed Mr Callinan had her dismissed from her job as a journalist with Independent News and Media and for which she got an apology in court from the newspaper. She said a judge in another case being brought against her had recused himself last September on the basis that he too had acted for Mr Callinan and that a precedent had been set.

She also accused Mr Justice Dignam of not being objective because of references he made to German history in the second World War in an injunction decision he had given in the harassment case.

The harassment action has been brought by Edel Campbell, of Kingscourt, Co Cavan, over the alleged unauthorised use by Ms O’Doherty of an image of her son Diego Gilsenan, who died by suicide, in an article linking unexplained deaths to the Covid-19 vaccine.

As a result of repeated breaches of an injunction restraining publication, Ms O’Doherty was ordered to be brought before the court to answer a contempt application made on behalf of Ms Campbell.

She did not turn up for earlier sittings but after her arrest on Wednesday, she was released to allow her to prepare a case against the contempt application.

On Friday, Ms O’Doherty also applied to have the case thrown out on the basis of a claim that Ms Campbell’s legal fees are being paid through a GoFundMe campaign. This was third party funding, or maintenance as it is known in law, and this has been found to be illegal by the Supreme Court, she said.

“You should have sent out an email saying this was third party funding and was illegal, but this pantomime is continuing,” she told the judge.

Ms O’Doherty said the use of a picture of Mr Gilsenan, taken from the internet, was perfectly lawful and was done in the context of asking why so many young people are dying.

She also claimed that if Ms Campbell, who she repeatedly said should be in court, was able to claim harassment for her upset over the photo, then she too was being harassed “by the lies that have been told about me” and the upset it had caused her.

David Kennedy SC, for Ms Campbell, said Ms O’Doherty was using this opportunity to continue her campaign of intimidation and harassment of his client. He wanted the case put back anyway for reasons including putting in a reply to the claims about the funding of legal fees.

The judge said he would adjourn in circumstances where Ms O’Doherty had raised a potentially significant questions not least about the definition of harassment and free press and also where he had to consider her recusal application.

Ms O’Doherty said she wanted the case put back to October as she “has a life” and many commitments, including speaking at conferences abroad. She also said she wanted to appeal the matters before the court.

The judge said he had made no order because he had not heard the evidence in the case and he had first to give his decision on the recusal application. He adjourned the matter to June 7th.