Cahill criticises Senator Crown over remarks on her use of social media
IRA rape victim Mairia Cahill has criticised an independent senator following his contribution to a Seanad debate on cyber-bullying.
Professor John Crown described a bill which proposes making cyber-bullying a criminal offence as "potentially very dangerous" and said it has the "potential to undermine freedom of speech". The bill, which is being tabled by Labour Party senator Lorraine Higgins, is not being opposed by the Government.
During a Seanad debate, Prof Crown highlighted Ms Cahill's use of social media and said the Belfast woman "intentionally" targets other users in a non-malicious manner.
While commending Ms Cahill's determination in exposing the IRA sex abuse scandal, the leading oncologist said she had used social media to cause "quite a bit of alarm, distress and harm to people who deserved to be alarmed, distressed and harmed".
He said: "The wonderful Mairia Cahill, who has done so much to cast light on a very shadowy and disreputable series of episodes that occurred in Ireland, used the medium of the internet widely and caused - I will use the words of the Bill - quite a bit of alarm, distress and harm to people who deserved to be alarmed, distressed and harmed.
"She did so deliberately, but not maliciously."
Ms Cahill has taken issue with Prof Crown's remarks, accusing him of using her as a "political football".
She said she used her Twitter account for personal use like anybody else and had been subjected to vile abuse online.
"For the first time, I can say I feel like I've been used as a political football. Every politician to date has contacted me out of courtesy before raising my case - with the exception of Sinn Féin and now John Crown. I heard no comment from him on the abuse I've taken for the last nine months online, which was referred to in the Dáil," Ms Cahill said.
"I support Lorraine Higgins's attempt to make the internet safer, particularly for the young and vulnerable," she added.
In response to the criticism, Prof Crown said: "As was clear from my comments last night, I've always been, and will continue to be, a huge supporter of Mairia Cahill in her quest for justice." Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald this week said Ms Higgins's bill would be allowed to pass unopposed in the Seanad.
The bill will make it an offence to share any message that incites someone to commit harm to themselves.
It would also provide for up to 12 months in jail, and fines of €5,000, for anyone guilty of cyberbullying.
Both Ms Higgins and Ms Cahill have been subjected to vile online abuse.
Ms Higgins, a Galway-based senator, reported the threats to gardaí after she was told her head would be ripped off her shoulders and "shoved where the sun doesn't shine".
Ms Cahill has been subjected to constant taunts, in some cases by Sinn Féin supporters. Her treatment has been condemned by Coalition figures, including Joan Burton.