Sunday 19 November 2017

Husband unmasked former FF TD Chris Andrews after phantom tweets targeted wife

FORMER Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews
FORMER Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews
Chris Andrews
Eddy Carroll
Kathryn Byrne

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FORMER Fianna Fail TD Chris Andrews was unmasked as a phantom tweeter in a sophisticated sting by the husband of a businesswoman he criticised.

Mr Andrews quit the party this week after being unmasked as the dissenting Twitter user @brianformerff -- and fresh details have emerged of how he was identified.

Using the Twitter account, Mr Andrews posted more than 300 tweets, many criticising Micheal Martin and other senior Fianna Fail figures.

But his identity was uncovered not because he criticised party policy or leadership, but because he "questioned the professional integrity" of a Dublin businesswoman.

Her husband, in turn, moved to identify the source of the tweets and tracked Mr Andrews to a south Dublin internet cafe.

Kathryn Byrne, a self-employed businesswoman who runs a PR firm in south Dublin, last night confirmed to the Irish Independent how the sting was pulled off.

Ms Byrne, who is also a member of the Fianna Fail national executive, said Mr Andrews had used the Twitter account @brianformerff to question her personal and professional integrity.

She said the "online vendetta" spurred her husband Eddy Carroll, a director and chief technical officer of tech company Amulet Devices, into action.

Ms Byrne, whose Limelight Communications company is based on Grand Canal Street, Dublin, last night said: "Eddy Carroll has never been a member of Fianna Fail or any other political party. Ironically, had Chris Andrews restricted his comments to purely political matters, Eddy would have had no motivation to track him.

"It was only when Chris started questioning his wife's professional integrity and reputation that he felt he must take action."

The married couple live in Sandymount, just miles from the Rathmines internet cafe where Mr Carroll eventually tracked Mr Andrews down.

Ms Byrne was elected one of the party's vice-presidents at the ard fheis earlier this year, and was one of only two members of the national executive who abstained on the vote to bring forward a motion to expel Bertie Ahern from the party in the wake of the Mahon Report.

The sting operation involved Mr Carroll setting up another Twitter account called @john_cant_type and interacting with Mr Andrews's fake account.

Mr Carroll then posted a link to an article which was picked up by Mr Andrews, which enabled Mr Carroll to identify the unique IP address of the computer Mr Andrews was using. This was tracked down to a computer in the Amazon internet cafe in Rathmines.

Mr Carroll then waited on tweets from @brianformerff and went to the cafe to catch Mr Andrews in action, using photo and video surveillance.

Dossier

Mr Carroll compiled a 35-page dossier on his sting -- which some in FF thought was excessive in itself -- and submitted it to party bosses.

In her statement, Ms Byrne said her husband "spent in total five to six hours spread over several months on this discovery". She added: "His motivation was simple. His wife, Kathryn Byrne, a member of Fianna Fail's national executive and a self-employed business woman, was one of the subjects of this online vendetta.

"A number of @brianformerff's tweets called into question her personal and professional integrity.

"On learning that Chris Andrews was the person behind @brianformerff, he wrote a report detailing how the discovery was made and listing the various tweets.

"This was submitted to Fianna Fail headquarters. Eddy Carroll and Kathryn Byrne understand that FF HQ sought independent legal and IT advice, and subsequently held a meeting with Chris Andrews and were awaiting a response from him.

"This report was anonymously leaked to the press without Eddy Carroll or Kathryn Byrne's knowledge or consent in the last week.

"They had no desire to have Chris Andrews publicly embarrassed in any way."

Mr Andrews did not respond to requests for comment last night, but in a weekend interview he said he quit Fianna Fail because of disenchantment with leader Micheal Martin, and frustration over the direction of the party.

His resignation from the party only came to light at the same time as the Twitter incident.

Mr Andrews also insisted his resignation was not linked to the Twitter fiasco.

Fianna Fail is a party that his grandfather Todd Andrews helped found, and which his father Niall, uncle David and cousin Barry also served.

Irish Independent

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