Gemma wasn’t treated with respect

Fianna Fáil has denied that there was a party whip in operation. No sheep in County Hall as local farmer brought his home

IT IS not easy to take a positive out of a meeting that, from a Kilkenny City and County point of view, was a negative.

The Phoenix from the ashes of what some might term a Kangaroo Court-like interview between a crew of local councillors and one of Europe’s top investigative journalists was Good, Bad and Ugly.

A follow-up meeting at which councillors voted didn’t really do anyone any favours.

It was good because it hammered home to us the flippancy of our political system.

Judging someone on what for the most was a first time meeting with President of Ireland election hopeful Gemma O’Doherty could hardly be described as justice being seen to be done.

It was bad because it sent out a message that there are flaws in our city and county’s proud céad mile fáilte message for which we are much admired.

The escapade could well be summed up as hello, how are you and buzz off now.

It was ugly because it brought controversy rather than a display of respect, regard and recognition and it leaves a sour taste.

Under the spotlight was a woman of courage, a straight and honest lady whose journalistic bravery has put question marks over the untouchables in our country.

Gemma O’Doherty’s visit to County Hall last week was her third here in recent times.

She firstly attended a ‘corruption uncovered’ session in the St Canice’s Neighbourhood Hall on the Butts Green.

A packed hall gave a warm welcome to Gemma and fellow speakers who highlighted various forms of corruption.

Some who applauded her bravery and her honest shooting from the hip may have considered voting for her for high office.

The third visit was to hear her fate as councillors voted for, against or abstained.

Result is that she may not get to play in the Champions League of politics.

The gathering had the trimmings and undertones of a coming together where the person seeking a leg up hadn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell.

Let’s go back to the Phoenix.

In her wisdom, innocence maybe, Gemma may have hoped, even believed, that she would garner support here.

Yes, she did get support, but not enough to make any difference to her independent campaign.

The gathering may have had the appearance of democracy in action.

But fowl play was suspected as some chickened out.

Notion was that sheep had been rounded up. There was talk of party whips.

Do not as you want to do but as we tell you to do.

Good, Bad and Ugly had become Good, Baa-d and Ugly, in the minds of some.

Councillors, whether or not they deserved the honour of questioning any candidate, had an opportunity to show that they practised and appreciated democracy.

Why any Presidential candidate should have to grovel to councillors for support is a moot question.

Perhaps it is seen as a perk of the lower tier of Irish politics.

Power brings an opportunity to show who is boss,

Some may deem it a good idea to find out where particular candidates are coming from, what are his or her aims for our people.

Should we now assume that those battling to be Senators, TDs, and Councillors will be subject to similar interrogation.

What’s good for the goose!

The latter should be by members of the electorate, a baby step to giving our people a real say in the running of our country.

It would be nice but naive to believe that the dog will eventually wag its tail rather than vice versa.

Names that Gemma may always remember are David Kennedy and Seán Tyrrell of Sinn Féin, Tomás Breathnach, Labour and Independents Breda Gardner and Melissa O’Neill.

They voted for her.

Voting against were Malcolm Noonan, Green Party, Patrick McKee, FF, Michael Doyle FG, Chap Cleere, Michael McCarthy, Matt Doran and Pat Millea, all FF.

Those who abstained were Mary Hilda Cavanagh, Pat O’Neill, John Brennan, David Fitzgerald, Pat Dunphy, Fidelis Doherty, all FG, Eamon Aylward, Ger Frisby, Joe Malone, Andrew McGuinness and Pat Fitzpatrick, all FF.

Maurice Shortall of Labour was not at the voting. He is thankfully on the mend following surgery.

Some who sat on the fence will say that they did not want to harm the candidate’s chances.

There were claims that FF councillors were under the party whip to abstain or vote against.

These were denied.

The Reporter was assured that FF councillors were not under orders.

The burning question has to be how it came to pass that 11 councillors, coincidentally bed buddies in government, happened to travel the exact same route?

Was it divine inspiration?

Or purely a coincidence?

It is difficult to fathom that all sang the same hymn without someone deciding what canticle should be warbled.

If FF councilors received divine inspiration, the notion has to be that the Lord also delivered for their FG mates.

God works in mysterious ways.

The voting was an exercise that must have disappointed Gemma O’Doherty or, more importantly, deprived a section of our people, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 + who knows, of voting for her.

Whether or not she would have become President is irrelevant.

And, let’s be fair, Gemma may still get there in spite of Kilkenny.

What is pertinent is that some who abstained, under orders or not, may have put political affiliations ahead of common decency with scant respect for citizens who would support Gemma O’Doherty.

A natural conclusion is that we are merely pawns to be thrown around the chessboard of life.

We accept that there are many good people among the councillors who gathered in County Hall.

It now behoves us to re-elect them and maybe to give others the cruel cold shoulder that was given to Gemma O’Doherty.

Some of us do believe in Karma.

Thankfully, no one will have the power to put obstacles in front of wannabes and sitting councillors.

No one deserves that sort of treatment.

Whether or not any of us would have voted for Gemma is our own business.

Our belief is that nobody should have the power to knobble any of the candidates prepared to put themselves at the mercy of the electorate.

Those voting for Gemma at County Hall, spirited perhaps by courageous Independent Breda Gardner, voted from the heart.

Those who voted ‘no’ were blunt but up front.

Those who abstained did not take a leaf out of Gemma O’Doherty’s Book of Courage and Decency.

They would perhaps have done themselves a good turn by voting for or against.

A grey area would not exist.

Abstaining is considered by many as a cop out.

At The Reporter we open our columns to the views of readers whether or not they agree with us.

There is one stipulation only.

Name, address and telephone number must be supplied for publishing and verification.

It is the duty of journalists to respect democracy but allowing anyone to fire shots of anonymity is not an option.

We wish all of our councillors good luck in next year’s local elections.

And our great wish is that they will be shown the respect that we believe was not shown to Gemma O’Doherty.