Comments on private Sinn Féin group ‘appalling’, says Ó Broin

Supporters’ page contained abusive, violent comments about high-ranking politicians

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin: ‘I have repeatedly said anyone who is engaging in online abuse is not helping the party and should stop.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin: ‘I have repeatedly said anyone who is engaging in online abuse is not helping the party and should stop.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Comments made in a private Facebook group of Sinn Féin supporters abusing other political figures have been described as “appalling” by party TD Eoin Ó Broin.

Mr Ó Broin, Sinn Féin TD and the party’s housing spokesman, said he believed the Facebook group had previously been shut down.

The supporters’ group contained abusive and sometimes violent comments about numerous high-ranking politicians including the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

The group is named “Sinn Féin” and has 16,000 members, which included some party TDs and councillors up until this week.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Ó Broin said the party “do not condone” any of the posts, and had been seeking to have Facebook shut the group down.

“I have repeatedly said anyone who is engaging in online abuse is not helping the party and should stop,” he told the RTÉ radio Saturday with Katie Hannon show. “This is not in our party’s interest, this is not what we want,” he said.

Under a photo of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Michael Collins, commentators in the group wrote that Collins would have “cut Leo the liar’s throat, for sure” or “I know what Michael Collins would have done with a snitch like Leo the leak, one round, and a round well spent.”

Another said Collins would “shoot Leo in the face, like most of the Irish would love to”. Other posts about Varadkar said he should be “put in the bog” or that he “needs the belt of a shovel badly”, “the bigger and heavier the better”.

Individuals cannot find the group by searching on Facebook, and must be invited to join in order to view the content. The group was set up in 2013, and lists three party activists who have featured on local Sinn Féin Facebook pages as administrators.

‘Toxic culture’

“When this was brought to our attention over a year ago, and we looked into it, there was one party member who was connected to this site . . . We urged that person to disassociate themselves from the site and they did that,” Mr Ó Broin said.

“I spoke to party head office this morning, we do not know who is administering this site currently,” he said. “It was originally an open Facebook page, we had actually thought Facebook had shut it down,” he said.

Neale Richmond, Fine Gael TD, said the comments in the group showed there was “a toxic culture at the heart of Sinn Féin when it comes to social media”.

Independent Senator Michael McDowell, speaking on the same radio programme, said there had been a “failure” by Sinn Féin to control the supporters’ group.

“For a party that organises things with such discipline . . . it’s amazing that this has gone on for so long,” he said.

Mr Ó Broin said Sinn Féin TDs or councillors who were members of the group may have joined when it was a public page, and may not have been aware of the abusive commentary posted.

“It was originally an open Facebook page and it had the party’s name on it . . . They may not have been seeing any of it,” he said. “It is not a Sinn Féin site, we don’t run it,” he said.