Senator speaks of ‘vile’ personal online abuse during general election

McFadden to give all Senators an ‘I am a Friend’ pin for campaign to stop bullying

A Government Senator has spoken of how she had been subjected to a barrage of vile personal abuse online during the general election.

Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden recalled her personal experience to highlight an initiative called “I am a Friend” in the Midlands to provide support for people being bullied and to campaign against bullying.

Ms McFadden empathised with people who had faced online bullying. “As someone who has been on the receiving end of a barrage of vile, personal abuse I know how it feels,” she said.

“During the last general election I was targeted by a number of people on social media who were too cowardly to talk to me face to face. But thought it was okay to personally insult and attack me.”


She said: “I chose to ignore the comments at the time but the bombardment of insults continued. Thankfully I have the wherewithal to stand up to these bullies and I think that we should use every opportunity to stand up and say ‘Stop’.”

Appealing to her colleagues to use every opportunity to stop bullying she highlighted the Midlands initiative started by Charlie Wynne.

The “I am a Friend” initiative aims to support people who find themselves being bullied, she said.

“Just as a pioneer pin makes a statement about the wearer it is hoped that the wearing the symbol will spread the message to others,” the Co Westmeath Senator said.

Ms McFadden said she would provide her Seanad colleagues with a pin “and I would hope that every member would wear the pin and set an example”.

“The mission is to find a more thoughtful, caring society where friends look out friends.

“By wearing the I am a Friend pin people “make a proud statement” that they do not agree with bullying behaviour and will support victims of bullying in whatever way they can.

Ms McFadden pointed out that for most people affected by bullying, online intimidation was merely a new form of traditional bullying.

She cited a study published last week in the UK which found that nine of out 10 of teenagers who suffered online bullying were also subjected to traditional bullying.

“We often think of cyber bullying as a significant threat to our young people,” she said. “The study finds that face-to-face bullying remains the most common among teenagers.

“According to the study cyber bullying is best understood as a new avenue to victimise those already being bullied in traditional ways rather than a way to pick new victims.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times