Social media has increased vitriol and hatred towards politicians, say Harney and Coughlan


Social media has exacerbated the level of abuse against politicians, two former Tánaistí said.

Mary Harney and Mary Coughlan were speaking at MacGill Summer School, which is being held virtually for second year. Both said an acceptable level of abuse had been established around the financial crash, during which Ms Coughlan was a Tánaist.

However, both said the situation has gotten much worse in the age of social media.

Ms Harney said she recently spoke to a TD woman about the abuse she is experiencing.

“I was talking to a young TD lady and I asked her what her experience was and she said, ‘You have no idea how bad it is.” She said it was really hard, the vitriol and hatred aimed at women.

People talk about her looks and the way she talks and it’s never about what she said. She said – and I can attest to this because it was my experience – it has a terrible effect on her family, her relatives, her parents.

“And I had the same. My mom was so upset, and it would be in mainstream media rather than social media.

“I think it’s really worrying what’s going on with social media. I had quit politics before social media took hold. I think I would have found it extremely difficult to function in today’s social media environment, quite honestly. “

Ms Harney said she was in favor of social media being regulated not only in Ireland, but globally.

“Atrocious abuse”

Ms Coughlan said she “had suffered terrible abuse”.

“When you think about it, people wouldn’t tolerate it anymore,” she said.

“I see the abuse has worsened now because of social media. Vitriol is horrible, absolutely desperate. Politicians are seen as a fair game, they are not allowed to have an opinion and they cannot be wrong. It really does impact people and especially families, especially if you have kids.

It’s very difficult for people to be in public life at the best of times, but to have all of that on top of what you do is absolutely horrible and shows a really rude side of public life. which is really not acceptable.

Ms Harney and Ms Coughlan both said mainstream media had been difficult to tackle, with Ms Coughlan saying newspapers had been banned from her home.

“I was a married woman with two young children and my late husband was just apoplectic about the effects this would have on the children and on the family. We didn’t have that much social media back then. Vitriol is horrible, it’s desperate and it’s not just here it’s in other countries, UK, USA too, where politicians are seen as a fair game. “


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