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Councillor hits out at Eoghan Harris as council passes motion condemning Twitter trolls


Eoghan Harris. Picture: Dave Meehan

Eoghan Harris. Picture: Dave Meehan

Eoghan Harris. Picture: Dave Meehan

Former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris’ use of an anonymous Twitter account to criticise other journalists has been condemned by the Council of his native City.

Cork City Council condemned “Twitter trolls” who criticise journalists and verbally abuse people on social media.

Fine Gael Cork city councillor Shane O’Callaghan submitted the motion, which was passed at Monday’s meeting of Cork City Council, and which called for condemnation of “Twitter trolls who use such accounts to verbally abuse people on social media in a shameful and cowardly manner.”

Cllr O’Callaghan then launched a scathing attack on former Sunday Independent columnist and fellow Corkman, Eoghan Harris.

“We recently discovered that Sunday Independent journalist Eoghan Harris had used an anonymous Twitter account called Barbara J Pym to attack and denigrate other journalists,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“Harris is no stranger to controversy and, in my view, this is just the latest in a long line of negative contributions by him,” Cllr O’Callaghan added.

He then listed the contributions of Mr Harris he perceived as negative, saying “he attacked John Hume for his efforts to try to kick-start the Northern Peace Process.

“He attacked the then-Presidential candidate Mary McAlesse, saying that, if elected, she would be an arrogant and very dangerous, tribal President. He recently attacked the memory of the patriot Michael Collins who Harris accused of being a cold-blooded murderer.

“Throughout 2019, he did everything in his power to undermine Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney in their efforts to ensure that there wouldn’t be a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. Thankfully, they succeeded in negotiating the Northern Protocol despite Harris’ best efforts to prevent them from doing so.”

Lord Mayor Joe Kavanagh then intervened and reminded Cllr O’Callaghan that the Council meeting was a public meeting and that councillors could not benefit from the equivalent of Dáil privilege.

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Cllr O’Callaghan responded that he was well aware of the defamation laws, that everything that he was saying was a matter of public record and that, in the unlikely event of defamation proceedings being issued against him, he would rely on the defence of truth.

The Lord Mayor then allowed Cllr O’Callaghan to continue.

Cllr O’Callaghan stated: “In my view, the use by Harris of an anonymous Twitter account, to attack and denigrate other journalists who happened to have different views to his own in a shameful, cowardly and, in some cases, misogynistic manner, represents a new low, even for him.”

Green Party Councillor Colette Finn spoke in favour of the motion and said that women politicians were often subjected to vile, misogynistic abuse by “Twitter trolls” and this was one of the reasons why it was often difficult to get women to go into politics.

Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan also spoke in favour of the motion and described how women, in general, were constantly subjected to highly sexualised abuse by anonymous, cowardly “Twitter trolls”.

No councillor spoke against the motion, which was subsequently passed by a unanimous vote of Cork City Council.

Mr Harris was sacked as a long-time columnist with the Sunday Independent last month after admitting he was behind the anonymous Barbara J Pym Twitter account that regularly criticised Sinn Féin and its supporters and others in the worlds of politics and journalism.

Sunday Independent editor Alan English said at the time the account “frequently went far beyond what I describe as fair and reasonable comment”.

In a subsequent interview with Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio One, Mr Harris said: “I don’t think that any fair minded person going through that account would agree that it’s anything but a benign account meant to reassure Northern Unionists and Loyalists. There are very few rough passages in that, and they’re all directed at people well able to defend themselves.”

Mr Harris is facing legal action from journalists Allison Morris of the Belfast Telegraph and Aoife Grace Moore of the Irish Examiner, as well as Belfast filmmaker Sean Murray over tweets sent from the account.

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