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Twitter abuse: Fine Gael TDs call out senior party member who labelled women 'bitches'

Female members of the Fine Gael party have said comments made by one party member online are “unacceptable”.

TD Kate O'Connell and Minister Regina Doherty
TD Kate O'Connell and Minister Regina Doherty
Image: RollingNews.ie

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Regina Doherty has apologised to the Irish actor and writer Tara Flynn for online abuse she was subjected to by a senior Fine Gael party member.

At last night’s Fine Gael parliamentary meeting, TD Kate O’Connell distributed print outs of tweets sent by a member of the Fine Gael Executive Council, Barry Walsh.

The executive body takes core organisational decisions for the party and is elected at the party’s Ard Fheis.

The derogatory tweets have also been sent to a number of female politicians, referring to some as bitches.

At the end of the meeting O’Connell raised the issue of “nasty” online abuse one of its members was targeting women with.

Online abuse

She told her party colleagues she had been subjected to online abuse since a debate on the Eighth Amendment at the party’s national conference last weekend.

Walsh contributed to the debate on abortion on Saturday in which he said that he did not understand where the push for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment was coming from.

O’Connell has also written a formal letter of complaint to Fine Gael’s General Secretary Tom Curran.

Using strong words on RTÉ’S Sean O’Rourke Show this morning, Doherty said that as a ”mother and a woman” she can’t accept what Walsh has said.

In addition she said:

I would like to apologise to Tara Flynn on behalf of the Fine Gael party.

Flynn said on Twitter that she was grateful that O’Connell had stood up for women in her party and beyond, and thanked Doherty and other Fine Gael members for their actions.

Doherty said this is not just an internal matter for Fine Gael, stating that having someone target individuals on social media for having a different opinion speaks to a wider issue.

“This is not even close to normal behaviour,” she said.

‘Bile’

Dubbing his use of language as “bile” Doherty said she was not going to be quiet and pretend that Walsh represents the party that she loves.

Speaking on the same programme, Catherine Noone said she spoke to the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about the member last night following the parliamentary party meeting.

Noone said she wanted to be careful with her words for fear of prejudicing any formal disciplinary action taken against Walsh, but said she agreed with Doherty.

She said this was not about men versus women – “it is about human decency”.

“This is not acceptable behaviour as a human being,” she added.

Dun Laoghaire TD Maria Bailey told Morning Ireland that she is 100% behind O’Connell.

“Social media either can be too quick to have a go at or use profound language and it’s not the place to do it… Kate was dead right.

“She was concerned about the profound language that is being used and the intimidation on social media with certain people. I absolutely support her on this and she was dead right on what she did last night. She did it in a very construction, productive manner in order to get results and solve a problem that we have,” said Bailey.

Minister Doherty said she expects Tom Curran, the party’s General Secretary, to deal with this matter “swiftly” and “professionally”.

Fine Gael party spokesperson confirmed to TheJournal.ie that a letter of complaint against a party member has been received.

This will be referred to the party’s Executive Council. The party will not be making any other comment at this time.

Attempts were made by TheJournal.ie to contact Barry Walsh but there was no response by the time of publication.

Read: ‘Emotional contributions’ about Fine Gael’s messaging on homelessness at party meeting>

Read: Woman who had a crisis pregnancy tells Fine Gael summit: ‘I wouldn’t wish it on anybody’>

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