Labour conference hears of ‘online bullying’ faced by candidates

Anne Waithira Burke tells session on direct provision of racial and sexist abuse

Labour’s Anne Waithira Burke said: ‘I believe it is high time our laws call out the internet and social media, [and] information technology in general’

Labour’s Anne Waithira Burke said: ‘I believe it is high time our laws call out the internet and social media, [and] information technology in general’

 

A Labour Party candidate has highlighted the racial and sexist abuse as well as online bullying experienced by some candidates during this year’s local election campaign.

During a session on direct provision and citizenship at the party’s annual conference in Mullingar, a Labour candidate in Co Wicklow said she encountered online harassment and bullying during the campaign.

Anne Waithira Burke stood for the party in the Greystones electoral area. She told delegates: “Much to my dismay, I did not expect the amount of abuse that I got from sexist comments, racism, and full-blown online bullying.

“I believe it is high time our laws call out the internet and social media, [and] information technology in general.

Another speaker, human rights activist Salomé Mbugua of the agency AkidWa said that Ireland of the 21st century would be judged on its direct provision system and pointed to the mental health and psychological impact on children in particular.

She said there were 1,600 people waiting in direct provision for over three years.

“The Incitement to Hatred Act of 1989 is out of date and the Government need to do something to ensure that these people are protected from these attacks of hate,” she said.

As for xenophobia, Ms Mbugua said that some people had told her: “You are different. You are not supposed to be here.”

She said there was now “an opportunity to build an inclusive society that we want. An Ireland we can be proud of.”

Pippa Woolnough of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said that the system to deal with immigration in Ireland needed to be updated. She said the system at the moment was 80 per cent discretion with 20 per cent policy and legislative framework. She said that the balance needed to be the other way around which would allow certainty and consistency for people who were applying, reapplying or moving towards the goal of attaining citizenship.

Cllr Annie Hoey from Laytown, Co Meath, said she had friends who had lived in the Mosney reception centre for asylum seekers for 11 years, a situation that was intolerable.