'I've been targeted by homophobic hate mail since joining TV3' - Cassie Stokes
TV presenter Cassie Stokes has received vile homophobic hate mail since joining the Xpose team.
The Dundrum native joined the TV3 line-up in April, filling in for long-time star Karen Koster while she is on maternity leave.
But she was left shocked after she received some offensive post from one hate-filled viewer.
"I recently got some homophobic hate mail into TV3. I have no idea who it was from, it was on a postcard," Cassie told the Herald.
"They didn't sign their name. They definitely had strong feelings towards gay people."
The anonymous viewer told the 28-year-old she would have to wear the label of being gay forever, but Stokes explained she does not let homophobic comments bother her.
"There were a few things about, 'you will have this label on your back forever' and I was like, 'really? Because I feel like I am wearing that label very proudly on my front'," she said.
Although the TV star was not hurt by the comments, she worried about the impact that person might have on any gay people they might know.
"It didn't hurt me as much as it would hurt your family or something like that.
"This person is irrelevant to me, but they could be quite relevant to someone that is in their neighbourhood who is gay."
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said nobody should have to put up with the abuse that the TV host received.
"She should not have to be subjected to that type of vitriol," he said.
"The reason why we have events like Pride is because the work is not finished. It's unacceptable that anybody should be subjected to abuse like that."
Brian Sheehan, director of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, slammed the abuse as "shocking" and unacceptable.
"The abuse that Cassie received is shocking, and yet it's a daily reality for many LGBT people.
"All right-thinking people in Ireland will be horrified that someone would be targeted for who they are. Nobody would condone this kind of abuse."
Grand Marshal of Dublin Pride and former spokesperson for LGBT Noise, Max Krzyzanowski, pointed out that discrimination against gay people in Ireland is still all too common.
"Something that has been revealed in study after study is that people who are the most homophobic, 85pc of the time they are wrestling with same-sex attraction because they have internalised the negative opinions of LGBT people in society," he said.
"They very often turn it outward into aggression on other LGBT people who have had the courage to come out.
"I think there's every possibility that the author of that postcard fits that bill.
"I worked in Panti Bar before and I have seen homophobic violence up close. Most straight people are surprised to learn how frequent these incidents are," he added.
Despite the abuse, Stokes said she was focused on how far societal attitudes towards LGBT people have come.
"I guess there's still a little bit of hate out there but we are doing amazing things and again it comes back to one day it won't be such a big deal," she said.
Stokes also had her say on the recent shooting in Orlando, Florida, where a crazed gunman opened fire in gay nightclub Pulse.
The incident, taking place on June 12, left 50 dead and a further 53 injured.
"I think everyone was affected by it in some way," she said.
"It was terrible, really upsetting. No matter who it happens to, it's so upsetting. It was a hate crime."
Stokes was speaking at the Dare To Be Different Style Awards at Bulmer's Live at Leopardstown.
Other judges at the event include Lisa Fitzpatrick and Lorraine Keane.