Waterford TD alleges Facebook profile was faked to ‘smear’ her
Mary Butler (FF) says fake account used to portray her as dismissive of sex abuse victims
Mary Butler: ‘My commitment to and support for victims of sexual abuse has been complete and unwavering.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
A Fianna Fáil TD in Waterford has claimed she is the target of a “smear operation” attempting to portray her as “dismissive” of victims of child sexual abuse.
Mary Butler is alleging that a fake Facebook profile has been set up to imitate her and interact inappropriately with certain social media posts.
She said the “sustained and co-ordinated campaign of online hate and harassment” has been happening for a number of months but intensified after her re-election to the Dáil last weekend.
In a statement she said: “Last evening [Monday], I became aware that a fake ‘Mary Butler TD’ Facebook page had been created and used to ‘like’ and ‘laugh’ at certain comments on other, legitimate pages. The intention and effect of this activity was to create the impression that I was dismissive of victims of child sexual abuse.”
The allegedly fake account left a “laughing” emoji beneath a post by a victim of Bill Kenneally, a former tallyman for Fianna Fáil in Waterford.
The post had been criticising Ms Butler for allowing his cousin, former minister of state Brendan Kenneally, to canvass for her last week.
Brendan Kenneally is on record as being aware of his cousin Bill’s abuse of children in 2002, but never told gardaí.
Bill Kenneally was sentenced in 2016 to 14 years for child sex abuse.
The account is believed to have been deleted but Ms Butler said: “Those behind this smear operation had taken screenshots of the fake activity and in a sophisticated and highly co-ordinated effort, distributed the images through social media throughout Waterford and around the country.”
She has reported the matter to gardaí and suspended her own Facebook account.
“The effect of this attack has been devastating for me personally and for my family,” Ms Butler said. “My commitment to and support for victims of sexual abuse has been complete and unwavering.”
Ms Butler came in for heavy criticism locally after Brendan Kenneally canvassed the home of a victim of his cousin last week.
On Sunday Ms Butler said she was not part of the canvass, and added she was sorry it took place.
“All I can do is apologise. I would never intentionally try to cause any upset or distress,” she said.
Colin Power, who is a survivor of Bill Kenneally’s abuse, said he objected to Ms Butler’s statement that she provided “unwavering” support to victims of child abuse.
“If she thinks it’s appropriate to have him canvassing for her, it says a lot about her and her standards. Her actions don’t match up with her words in my opinion.”