Eoghan Harris: ‘Barbara J Pym was no trolling account’
Letter: ‘Why did I set up an anonymous account – and admit to it when asked?’
Sir, – A 78-year-old man with terminal cancer can still learn this life lesson: my cancer is not as malignant as the manipulations of Sinn Féin whose hand is heavy behind the current campaign to cancel me.
Sinn Féin trolls, in their thousand, used Twitter to spread the smear that I sent Irish Examiner journalist Aoife Grace Moore multiple sexualised private messages from multiple accounts.
Moore’s original complaint was about two public tweets on the Barbara J Pym account. The first tweet of which she complains refers to her lauding Mary Lou McDonald, and simply says: “So that’s what turns you on?”.
This is a common figure of speech meaning “So that’s what you like?” and has no sexual connotations for most people.
The second tweet of which she complains says: “Moore thinks she’s sniping safely from behind Derry hedges, but she’s actually sniping from an ROI hedge in the Examiner, and her SF backside is sticking up in the air”.
Moore’s version of this changed its tone: “The account sent me sexualised messages about whether Mary Lou McDonald ‘turned me on’ the size of my arse and called me a terrorist from the month I started at the Examiner.”
By changing “SF backside” to “the size of my arse” it is not me who is sexualising the message but in retrospect, I regret the crudity of “backside”.
Finally, there is no tweet in the Barbara J Pym account calling Aoife Moore a terrorist.
Sinn Féin has mobilised its social media army to gender a political issue and ruin my reputation by depicting me as a misogynist.
Two of your columnists, Kathy Sheridan (Opinion & Analysis, May 12th) and Finn McRedmond (Opinion & Analysis, May 13th), seem to think these allegations of abusive misogyny against me are proven. They are not. Should these allegations be considered in a court of law, I will welcome the opportunity to refute them.
Speaking of which, solicitors for the complainants, clearly under the delusion I run them, have repeatedly tried to link me with nine other suspended Twitter accounts.
I have only one Twitter account, Barbara J Pym. I suspect the other accounts were suspended because they supported my anti-Sinn Féin views.
In fact I only know two of these suspended account holders, both strong women, who share my loathing of Sinn Féin and are well able to articulate that abhorrence.
One is my sister, Bridget McIntyre, the other is “Dolly White” who tells me she’s soon going public because she’s sick of the misogynistic smear that she is really me.
Why did I set up an anonymous account – and admit to it when asked?
The short answer is that my column could not concentrate on Northern Ireland and I was desperate to find a wider platform to reach out to unionists and fight Sinn Féin.
Barbara J Pym was no trolling account. About 90 per cent of the tweets were about Northern Irish politics. It blocked followers who used the word c**t.
One of the reasons I used a pseudonym was because my own name would filter how my tweets were received. I wanted to be read with an open mind.
Fintan O’Toole recently wrote that “for a political columnist working in a democratic society, anonymity is a betrayal” (Opinion & Analysis, May .12th).
I disagree. I strongly believe journalists should be allowed to use a pseudonym to fight Sinn Féin on social media.
A recent Twitter statement says: “Pseudonymity has been a vital tool for speaking out in oppressive regimes, it is no less critical in democratic societies.”
That applies in Ireland. Irish democracy is under siege from Sinn Féin, a party with a military wing – and most journalists are in denial about the danger.
In the limited time left to me, I wanted to be honest. That is why I honestly unmasked myself as Barbara J Pym. Likewise I honestly believe any tweets I sent to women journalists were neither sexual nor abusive but political in aim.
Yes, I accept women journalists are often unfairly targeted online – but this does not make them immune to criticism. Political journalism requires a level of robustness. Aoife Moore has a strong public platform in the Irish Examiner and over 42,000 adoring Twitter followers.
Apart from this Irish Times letter, I have been offered no public redress. Sinn Féin trolls can say anything they like about me. And do. Like swimming through a sea of sewage.
But I will not meekly follow the standard script for the cancelled – abject apology and pleas for free speech. I make no apology for my Twitter account – and Sinn Féin doesn’t believe in free speech.
I will not go gently to my grave. I will fight Sinn Féin fascism with my last breath. – Yours, etc,