Ó Broin: We don't encourage 'Shinnerbots' to troll political rivals

Ó Broin: We don't encourage 'Shinnerbots' to troll political rivals
Eoin O Broin on the plinth of Leinster House Dublin.Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Eoin Ó Broin says his party is better off after a member in Wexford who had been anonymously trolling people online, resigned.

The Sinn Féin housing spokesman was responding to reports that a Sinn Féin member used false social media profiles to abuse businessmen, politicians and celebrities, including a Fianna Fáil senator and a local businessman.

The derogatory comments were left by an anonymous Twitter profile, using the name “P O’Neill”, a code-name once used by the Provisional IRA.

"Well, the first thing I'd say is, with respect to the former member, good riddance," Mr Ó Broin said on Tuesday.

"I'm an active user of social media, and I think if you're going to say something on social media, say it under your own name, and this business of hiding behind anonymity I think is cowardly.

"So if somebody was engaged in that kind of practice and left the party, I think parties are better for it.

"I don't accept that the party doesn't do enough.

"In this instance, if that individual hadn't resigned for the party you'd have lots of us making sure everything was done to get rid of such a person.

"What I would say is, is there is an element of social media, it's a minority element, but there's an element that's nasty, and if there is anybody out there who is a supporter of our party or indeed a member of our party and engaged in that, my message to them is; don't to do it.

"We have far too many positive things to be talking about to be engaged in nasty or negative, or vitriolic attacks on anybody."

Mr Ó Broin rejected any claim that the party actively encourages trolling online or that there is a 'shinnerbot' element in which party supporters rally around to abuse people or political rivals.

"It's not true, it doesn't exist. People are accountable for what they say themselves online, and what we can do is we can urge people to use social media positively," Mr Ó Broin added.

"The party doesn't benefit from negativity online, our party will benefit if people hear our positive message, so again, all I'd say to people is, if they are supportive of our party, and they want to do right by our party on social media or publicly, talk with the positives, don't be engaging in negative.

"People who vote for our party, vote for our party because of the policies that we have on housing and health and united Ireland, etc.

"All I can say is and I'm somebody who uses social media all the time, if people are engaged in negativity on social media and they think it's helping Sinn Féin, it's not."

Fine Gael Jennifer Carroll MacNeill released a statement earlier in the day calling on party leader Mary Lou McDonald to make a statement on the matter and said Sinn Féin had "engaged in organised online bullying".

Mr Ó Broin said the comments were "engaging in cheap political points scoring", adding his party has clear social media guidelines that apply to members.

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