Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the junior justice minister, has spoken of the need to regulate social media users and the harsh reality of receiving “nasty” messages and emails.
The North Dublin Bay TD, has also, for the first time, revealed he has an ambition to one day be leader of the Labour Party, if the position becomes available.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he also pledged Labour would not move to introduce abortion beyond “limited circumstances” if returned to power.
Asked would he or Labour favour introducing abortion beyond limited cases for rape, fatal foetal abnormalities, or for the health of a mother, he replied: “In time, it may come to that... there may come a time when people will say it is completely hypocritical for us to have 4,000 women a year accessing terminations in Britain. I doubt it [during the next government].”
He said Labour would facilitate a referendum on abortion in “very limited cases”.
“If the government after that wants to go further, then it would necessitate a manifesto outlining that and a commitment from government to achieve that.”
Mr Ó Ríordáin, a frequent user of social media such as Twitter in his personal and work life, warned about escalating abuse against public representatives online.
Asked if the next government should bring in specific new sanctions for social media abusers who target or abuse people, he responded: “I think it is something we can look at.
“I’m wary at blaming social media for this. This comes from a culture of criticism, a culture of negativity. I’d be wary of interfering too much with people’s right to air their views.
“When it comes to people being physically threatened, or in a sexualised manner, this is about what part of the debate is about, particularly when trying to attract women into politics, and then you get an issue where people get very highly-sexualised threats made against them. It’s not just enough to say ‘mute that account’.”
The minister also spoke about “nasty” messages he had received. “I have my own ways of dealing with it. It does sting. It does cling to you a little bit. Some days are better than others.
“It tends to spike if there is a particular issue that you are dealing with. If you are dealing with an issue for a minority, you can be accused of pandering to that minority and all the negative words that are used about that minority can be thrown at you. You get nasty emails as well.”
He said many negative messages received pertained to his support for minorities.
“[I received material] around the Syrian refugee issues. And people send you highly-inflammatory racist material, that’s just going to make you work harder to dig out the emails that you do get from the number of individuals who do support [them].”
The TD also admitted he had ambitions to some day lead Labour. “Obviously, yes, I have ambitions. When I was a backbencher, I hated being a backbencher, I wanted to go back to the council.
“In the council, you can get your hands dirty and fix things for people and get things done and have ambition about council services. When you are a backbencher, you feel useless so everybody wants to be a minister of state.
“And then you are a minister of state and sometimes you make a presentation to Cabinet, then you think I’d like to be a cabinet minister, but you do want to be confident in yourself that you could do the job. That would be the most important thing.
“If a vacancy came up, I’m sure I’d look at it. I don’t see a vacancy coming up in a long time.”
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