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Ex-Sindo columnist Eoghan Harris 'not sorry' for banned anonymous Twitter account

Harris says there were “about six people” involved in the ‘Barbara J. Pym’ account.

Eoghan was appointed to the Seanad by former taoiseach Berie Ahern.
Eoghan was appointed to the Seanad by former taoiseach Berie Ahern.

FORMER SUNDAY INDEPENDENT columnist Eoghan Harris has said he is not sorry for being one of the founders of an anonymous Twitter account that was banned from the platform. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme, Harris said there were “about six people” involved in the ‘Barbara J. Pym’ Twitter account but he declined to confirm who the others were, saying only that “two of them are business people”. 

Asked why he had set up the account, the former national newspaper columnist said he “couldn’t really visit my readers every week with all the stuff about Northern Ireland I wanted to address.”

Harris’ columns regularly featured criticism of Sinn Féin and were frequently about Northern Ireland. 

He said he has “strong views” about the unionist working classes and that he “wanted access to mainly unionists and loyalists to reassure them that many people in the republic had no agenda against them.”

He defended the approach of using an anonymous account to achieve this, saying there’s “a long tradition of anonymously pamphleteering, the American founding fathers all did it.”

“I had no problem admitting my involvement when I was asked about it. But others on the site were a bit loath to do so because they’re just afraid of Sinn Féin, and of course that is the context of the whole thing,” he said. 

Last night, editor of the Sunday Independent Alan English revealed that Harris had been dropped as a columnist due to his involvement in the Twitter account. 

English said that many of the comments on the account “went far beyond what I would describe as fair and reasonable comment. Under no circumstances would such material have been published in our newspaper or on Independent.ie.”

English also said on Twitter that attacks on Irish Examiner journalist Aoife Moore by the Barbara J Pym account were “contemptible”. 

Moore tweeted last night that the account had sent her sexualised messages. 

Asked about these tweets which referenced the journalist’s “backside”, Harris said he did not write them but he denied they were sexually offensive, claiming the criticism was “humorous and robust”. 

The account has now been permanently suspended from Twitter for “violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam.”

Several Twitter users have shared screenshots of previous tweets from the account, many of which praised Harris’ own work.

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The columnist denied to RTÉ journalist Sarah McInerney that he had composed the tweets which praised his work. 

Harris said he did not have oversight of all the tweets sent from the account. 

“I did see some of them, I wouldn’t see others. I would have seen all of them maybe up to a year ago but as my health went I could only do a fair amount, I couldn’t do much,” he said. 

Harris also said he was not sorry for his part in the account: 

No, I would have had to have found an outlet to deal with Northern Ireland one way or the other. It is my life. All my life, people say I’m inconsistent, I’ve been consistent all my life in thinking that Sinn Fein is a malignant force which will eventually pitch us at in some kind of civil strife, unless you stand up to it. 

Twitter earlier confirmed to The Journal that it has also suspended eight additional accounts linked to the Barbara J Pym account. 

Harris denied that these accounts are linked to him. 

“No, they’re not linked to me, they have suspended nine Twitter accounts, which has supported the political line at various times, or retweeted stuff. They’ve done it clearly in response to major pressure and I suspect the pressure is coming from Sinn Féin,” he said.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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