‘Death threat’ to abortion committee member

An Oireachtas abortion committee member received an apparent death threat two weeks ago, describing her as a “baby killer” who would be “put in hell where you belong R.I.P.”.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger confirmed the correspondence as committee colleagues said they have been inundated with abusive pro-choice and pro-life emails and letters, framed pictures of Judas, and religious figurines since their work began.

Speaking individually to the Irish Examiner, politicians said they have each received hundreds of items of correspondence from the public since their first public meetings in September.

And while all, including Ms Coppinger, said most correspondence was respectful, they confirmed they have also received abusive messages.

Ms Coppinger said the majority of the hundreds of items sent to her has been “overwhelmingly constructive” and “punctures the myth that the debate is fraught and hostile”. However, she confirmed that two letters were “threatening” and “vile”, with one sent to her constituency office two weeks ago reading “Baby killer, I will put you in hell where you belong” alongside “R.I.P” and a drawing of a cross.

Pro-life TD Mattie McGrath said he has received 1,231 emails and letters, with on average 100 supporting the Eighth Amendment for every five that want changes or repeal.

He said while he sees “no intimidation” from the “extremely large” pro-life “silent majority”, some pro-choice letters are “vitriolic and juvenile”.

Almost all committee members said they received a framed picture of Judas last week from an address in Adare, Co Limerick, which contained a quote from canon law 1,398 saying any pro-choice advocates have been excommunicated.

The large package — believed to have cost in excess of €600 to send to almost all 21 committee members due to its size and quality — blamed doctors, women receiving abortions, and “the boyfriend”.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, and Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said most of the hundreds of items of correspondence to them had been respectful, although all four said they do not read “copy and paste” campaign group emails.

A small number privately said they have also received religious figurines, while others accused pro-choice and pro-life committee members of encouraging aggressive emails to rivals.

Senator Rónán Mullen said he has received “some unpleasant e-mails, an angry phone call, and a lot of abuse on Twitter” but added that he believes some politicians are “exploiting” the letters for publicity and questioned “who’s actually sending this stuff out”.

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien was one of a small number of committee members not to receive any notable letters, saying: “I haven’t received anything to be honest, feel very left out.”

Editorial: 10

Eighth Amendment debate: 16

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