Tuesday 25 October 2016

Why I'm pushing back against the online trolls

Regina Doherty TD

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Regina Doherty TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Regina Doherty TD. Photo: Tom Burke

When I was growing up, I had little interest in public policy, other than it allowed me to stay up after the nine o'clock news by feigning an interest to my Dad in 'Today Tonight'. I was kind of reared on it, you could say.

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There was little else talked about but politician A or B, what they were doing - or not in some cases; but there was always a positive, healthy respect for all politicians, whether they be Fianna Fáil, Labour, or Independent but obviously a reverence for Fine Gael politicians as that was/is the colour of our house.

Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

In my own adult life I have been critical of some politicians for failing to meet people's expectations or for promising the undeliverable and letting people down. I thought the job was a privilege and worth investing in.

It was only when I was elected first to Meath County Council and then to Dáil Éireann that I discovered just how big the volume of work actually is. When people tell me I have a hard job, I say it's definitely not hard but it certainly is large in volume.

I can now appreciate first hand how sometimes you let people down, forget to follow up or simply just forget altogether. I never forget just how much of a privilege it is, though. To actually get to shape public policy for the better is a real gem I will always cherish.

It's something that only a very small number of people get to do and I know just how lucky I am.

Also to help people on a daily basis gives a real buzz. They might be only small things to most, but to the people who come to me for help, it's usually a big thing for them.

Again, I know how lucky I am to be in this position.

Now before you start getting sick of my self-appreciation, being involved does come at a cost. In the beginning it was lost time with my family, my kids, friends (please don't stop asking me to things). Because I was doing good stuff around special needs provisions in schools and valuable work regarding women's rights, the trade-off was okay with us (hubby & me).

Then the abuse comes. If you keep you head below the radar, it's only subtle. If you are a mouth like me and fight back, it can be intolerable.

Different people deal with things in different ways and I certainly know that not everybody likes me or Fine Gael for that matter, but some of the exchanges we receive in public life are simply NOT acceptable and until we start to push back it will only get worse.

The senseless murder of Jo Cox this week has not left my thoughts since she died on Thursday.

She is my age, a mammy, a politician of conviction.

She was brutally murdered doing her constituency clinics. Something we do on a weekly basis, normal, routine.

I am at a loss as to why some people treat other people the way they do. I don't know why anybody would threaten your life or that of your family but they do.

But I know now, for sure, that I for one will not let a very small number of people run really good people out of public life.

It is time we started to push back, show up these trollers for what they are and fight back.

The clerk of Dáil Éireann is currently conducting a security review for Leinster House.

That is welcome but it is on very many forums and venues that we meet everyday abuse and we collectively must act against it.

Today, out of respect for the job that Jo Cox started, I am going to start pushing back. I will always be respectful but no more will I ignore the snide vicious or even slanderous exchanges that come on a daily basis. I'm fighting back.

Posted by Regina Doherty TD on her Facebook account

Irish Independent

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