Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has accused an opposition TD of making “cheap” claims that she is trying to gag a blogger, who is deeply critical of her performance in power, by formally referring the matter to gardaí.
Ms Doherty made the comment as she alleged she has suffered “a number of years of what I believe was harassment”, a claim that has been repeatedly rejected by the blogger at the centre of the controversy.
Earlier this month, it emerged Ms Doherty had made a formal complaint against US blogger Catherine Kelly over comments on social media.
As she prepared to depart for the US, Ms Kelly was approached by gardaí at Dublin Airport and spoken to about the complaint.
News of the stand-off led to significant criticism of Ms Doherty, with Solidarity-People before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger accusing her of attempting to gag independent critics of the Government.
Asked about the issue on RTÉ radio’s News at One programme, Ms Doherty said while she was limited in what could can say about the case, due to the involvement of gardaí, the opposition criticism was “cheap” and incorrect.
“I’m not sure it’s actually appropriate for me to have a comment on how they [gardaí] carry out their job given there is a separation of powers but what I will say is that I made a complaint as a private person, I didn’t make a complaint as Regina Doherty TD or as a minister.
“I think she [Ms Coppinger] is wrong, to be very honest with you. She’s in for the cheap statement, she made her statement in the Dáil last week and it was inaccurate,” claimed Ms Doherty.
Also in the radio interview yesterday, Ms Doherty said a series of social welfare pay increases are being considered and will be debated before the budget is announced in October.
Ms Doherty said she is “keeping my options open” and insisted any money to fund water charges repayments will not come from her department’s budget.
She confirmed the fuel allowance will now be able to be paid in two yearly payments, meaning families can budget for two €292. 50 payments in January and October rather than the existing €22.50 weekly transfers.
The move was announced after Ms Doherty and Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath attended a wide-ranging meeting with groups representing people who receive social welfare and government supports at Dublin Castle yesterday.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved