Women TDs to raise online abuse they face with Ceann Comhairle

Labour leader Ivana Bacik says social media companies facilitating spread of hate messages and of harassment

Female TDs will raise the issue of social media companies facilitating the spread of hate, intimidation and harassment against women public representatives when they meet the Ceann Comhairle on Wednesday to discuss the rising levels of threats they face.

Sean Ó Fearghaíl has taken the initiative to organise the meeting after a large number of women politicians publicly spoke about the abuse they have been subjected to, both online and in person.

All women TDs have been invited to the meeting on Wednesday. Senior members of the gardaí will be present, as will a psychologist who will be there to discuss the mentalities of the perpetrators of such abuse.

There is agreement that a cross-party group will be set up to implement any proposals that emerge from the meeting.

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Speaking on Tuesday, Labour Party leader and vice-chair of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus, Ivana Bacik, said it was very important that a taskforce on security be established for public representatives, their staff, and for local councillors, all of whom have been subjected to online, and personal, abuses.

She said a priority would be to challenge the big social media companies for not doing enough to prevent such abuse proliferating online.

“We’ve been engaging ourselves with the Facebook parent company, Meta, about the proliferation of private Facebook groups which are being used to spread messages of hate, and to escalate levels of harassment and intimidation for public representatives.

“Through the taskforce we (will hope) to engage with the heads of Meta, and of all the social media platforms which are being used in this way, to ensure that they take swift action on takedown.

She said women should not have to wait for the Online Safety apparatus – now in place following recent legislation – to kick in.

“There should be an initiative taken by social media platforms to stop this level of abuse going on. These are some of the issues we’ll be discussing,” she said.

The meeting and proposals for the new group come after five woman politicians spoke to The Irish Times about the level of abuse and threats they are dealing with. The politicians spoke of finding bullet shells on their door, of receiving pornographic letters, death threats and of being either intimidated in their constituency office or being advised to stop holding clinics altogether.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times