Online abuse by Fine Gael member is ‘unacceptable’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has declared that “nasty” slurs targetting women online by a senior Fine Gael figure are “not acceptable” and debate should be conducted in a responsible way.

Online abuse by Fine Gael member is ‘unacceptable’

An actor has joined TDs in making complaints about party national executive member Barry Walsh, who called women “stupid” and “bitches” and is facing possible suspension from Fine Gael.

Mr Varadkar criticised the abusive tweets, which Fine Gael Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell formally complained about to party chiefs.

Details of her complaints, obtained by the Irish Examiner, say Mr Walsh engaged online in “nasty” and “downright abusive” behaviour.

Ms O’Connell says several members of the parliamentary party have been subject to abuse from him, including her and Social Affairs Minister Regina Doherty.

She said she wanted “disciplinary action” taken against him.

The Irish Examiner understands actor and comedian Tara Flynn has also made a complaint to Fine Gael.

Tara Flynn
Tara Flynn

A tweet that has caused anger was one Mr Walsh posted about the actor, who had an abortion.

He wrote: “From what Tara Flynn says, she was pregnant and just couldn’t be bothered having a baby. So she had it killed. Why is she a feminist hero?”

In other tweets, he called women “bitches” and “stupid”.

The issue was raised this week by Ms O’Connell at Fine Gael’s weekly meeting in Leinster House, where a five-page dossier of the offensive tweets was distributed to members.

Fine Gael’s national executive will meet in the coming weeks and discuss the complaints. These could be referred to an internal disciplinary committee. Party sources said “due process” must take place. Several calls to Mr Walsh were not returned this week.

However, Mr Varadkar intervened last night, saying: “Mr Walsh’s use of language is not acceptable to me as party leader. A disciplinary process is now in train and will be completed swiftly in accordance with the party rules. All debate should be conducted in a respectful manner at party meetings, in the media and on social media. Party officers have a particular responsibility to set the standard in that regard.”

Ms Doherty described some of the online comments as “bile”, claiming they had gone on for “quite a considerable time”.

She told RTÉ: “The reason why we are so exercised over and above the normal run-of- the-mill stuff which you see on Twitter... is because this chap is sitting at a table with 15 or 16 others making decisions on behalf of the party that I go out and serve every single day and do my best to portray in as best a light as we can. As a women and a mother, I cannot accept it.”

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