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Independent Alliance member Kevin Boxer Moran.
Independent Alliance member Kevin Boxer Moran.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

"Water off a duck's back": TD responds to barrage of online criticism

A Fine Gael senator has hit out against the level of abuse politicians receive online.
Nov 21st 2016, 1:20 PM 15,390 53

A FINE GAEL senator has hit out at personal attacks levelled at politicians on social media.

Longford Westmeath senator Gabrielle McFadden spoke out about the issue after her constituency colleague, Independent Alliance TD Kevin Boxer Moran, was subject to online abuse.

It is not the first time politicians have highlighted the nature of the comments directed at politicians. John Halligan, Mairead McGuinness and Joan Burton talked about the matter earlier this year.

While both McFadden and Moran admit to receiving personal attacks, both have differing views on the topic.

McFadden said she is disgusted at the continued personal attacks she and her colleagues have received.

During the last general election, I was targeted by a number of people on social media, who thought it was acceptable to personally insult and attack not just me, but members of my family. I chose to ignore their comments at the time, but the bombardment of insults continued.
While I didn’t expect people to always agree with my stance on issues, my office door was open seven days a week, from 8am until 11pm most nights. During that period of time, not one of my social media abusers had the courage to discuss any issues with me face to face.

McFadden stated that Moran had recently been targeted by “cowardly keyboard warriors”.

28/5/2014. Gabrielle McFaddens First Day at Dail Longford/Westmeath senator Gabrielle McFadden. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

She said that while she may have a difference of opinion on a political level with Moran, she considers it completely unacceptable for people to target him on social media.

However, speaking about his experience, Moran told TheJournal.ie that he recently received some abuse online in relation to his views on public sector strikes and pay demands.

However, he said he believes it is part and parcel of being a public representative these days.

“I’ll take everything that comes at me,” he said.

Look, I am a public representative and I have to take what comes at me. Some people will agree with what I have to say and others won’t agree – it is part of being a public representative. There are elements that we just have to get used to, in the age of all this social media, like Snapchat and so on.
I have no issue with it, personally. It is water off the duck’s back to me.

‘Vile nature’ 

McFadden said “the vile nature of these contributions goes beyond anything that could be considered political commentary”.

“The unfortunate consequence of this is that people who may consider getting involved in public representation will think twice before putting their names forward for election, for fear of drawing these types of attacks on themselves and their families,” said the senator.

Moran agreed, stating that there are a lot of talented people who won’t consider a life as a public representative because of the abuse people receive online.

He said he would ask people to think of the families of politicians – the sons, daughters wives and husbands who have to read the abuse posted on the internet.

“We need to ask ourselves as a society, what kind of democratic representation we want? Do we want authentic people to represent us, or do we want populist politicians like Donald Trump in America, who panders to the lowest instincts?” said McFadden.

“Yes, everybody is entitled to their opinion, but if they can’t express that opinion without personal vitriol, they should be disconnected from the social media. If you wouldn’t say something to someone face to face, and accept the consequences, then you shouldn’t be allowed to use social media as a cloak.”

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Christina Finn

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