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MPs’ staff are ‘taking the brunt’ of threats against politicians

A former MP’s assistant said she had suffered nightmares and left politics because of dealing with constant death threats.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A CONSTANT TIDE of abuse and death threats has left MPs’ staff feeling “petrified”, a former parliamentary assistant has said.

The killing of Conservative MP Sir David Amess on Friday has sparked renewed calls for a review of MPs’ security and concern about the level of hostility towards politicians in the country.

But while MPs are at the centre of calls for more security, their staff are often the ones who deal with most of the threats and find themselves feeling vulnerable.

Jade Botterill, who worked for Labour MP Yvette Cooper between 2013 and 2019, said dealing with abuse directed towards her boss had left her suffering frequent nightmares and forced her to quit politics.

She said: “I would get in and all I would do is go on Facebook and report death threats and delete them. I reckon I reported over 1,000 death threats.

“I couldn’t sleep. I would have these nightmares that I would be in the office with Yvette and someone would come up to her and kill her.”

She added: “I think the staff shield a lot of the stuff from the MPs because it’s already quite hard on them. I felt God-forbid if anything ever happened to Yvette I would have to jump in the way.

“I would maybe tell her about two or three death threats a week and really she was getting 80 or 90.”

In one incident, Ms Botterill opened what appeared to be a condolence card addressed to Ms Cooper’s friends and family to find a message threatening to kill the MP.

One tweeted: “It’s been 15 years but I’m suddenly tearful remembering lone working in a constituency office with someone trying to smash their way in through a back window, and having had to be escorted to my car by the police. Must be much worse for current MP staff.”

Irish politicians and their staff are also no strangers to threats of violence and abuse. 

Minister of State Anne Rabbitte wrote in The Journal about threats she has received while in office.

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She described a late-night phone call she received in 2019, after speaking in support of farmers during the beef protests, when a caller told her to keep away from the issue or  “we’ll come for you”. 

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said female politicians receive a lot more abuse than their male counterparts, but he is also no stranger to harassment and insults.

The most common terms thrown in his direction include “fat p***k”, “West Brit” and “useless c**t”. He also once received an Instagram message which stated: “I hope your child gets autism.”

Former Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu regularly has to deal with abuse, much of it racist or sexist.

Chu has been called “slanty-eyed, “a yellow bitch”, “a pig in lipstick” and “a shape-shifting dragon” among other insults.

You can read our full piece on the abuse faced by Irish politicians here

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