Tuesday 17 September 2019

'It’s had a massive impact on me' - illustrator faces 'hundreds of death threats' after article is featured in Junior Cert exam

The comedian said she has received rape and bomb threats since the paper was released

Comedian and illustrator Aoife Dooley. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Comedian and illustrator Aoife Dooley. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Callum Lavery

An Irish illustrator and comedian said she has received "hundreds of threats" after an article she wrote appeared in this year's Junior Cert English exam paper.

Dublin-born Aoife Dooley said the messages she received from students included rape threats and bomb threats, and even threats to cut off her legs.

Taking to Twitter, Ms Dooley originally said her article being included as a reading comprehension question in the exam paper was a pleasant surprise.

Now, the comedian said she since been taken back by the unwarranted online abuse that has been directed at her.

"I’m all up for having a joke but this really has gone too far, ridiculously far and it’s really just not funny anymore," Ms Dooley told Independent.ie.

"People saying ‘just block [the users issuing threats]’, eh, you try having every teenager in the country message you, [it's] not that easy, if it was I wouldn’t be posting here.

A road less travelled: Aoife Dooley got a first class honours degree despite mediocre results in the Leaving Cert. Photo: Ruth Medjber
A road less travelled: Aoife Dooley got a first class honours degree despite mediocre results in the Leaving Cert. Photo: Ruth Medjber

"D**k pictures from 15-year-olds, rape, bombing my house are literally some of the messages I’ve been getting. If you have a son or daughter please talk to them about this and explain why it’s not funny or okay."

The abuse has become so overwhelming for the young comedian, she said she is forced to de-activate her social media accounts.

"This is really emotional for me (especially because [I'm] Autistic) and I’m extremely overwhelmed by this whole situation.

"It’s really making me consider the work I do and if it’s worth it at all after this. It’s had a massive impact on my mental health and well-being," Ms Dooley said.

Ms Dooley claimed that the State Exam Commission (SEC) never told her that her article, first published as part of the Irish Times’ Sound Off series in 2017, would appear in the paper. The humorous article detailed how public transport can frustrate Ms Dooley.

The comedian also claimed that the article was changed with words being replaced without her knowledge.

The State Exams Commission confirmed to Independent.ie that they sometimes "abridge or otherwise edit" material for assessment-related reasons. They said they do not advise authors in advance that their work may appear on the paper to "maintain the security and confidentiality" of the exam.

They added they believe the treatment Ms Dooley has experienced since the exam "is completely unacceptable".

In a full statement, a spokesperson for the SEC said;

"Under the Copyright and Related Rights legislation, the SEC does not infringe copyright when it uses, on an examination paper, any material that might infringe copyright in other circumstances.

"This exemption reflects similar legislation in other countries. The reason why such a provision is necessary is to recognise the over-riding need to maintain the security and confidentiality of examination papers in advance of their use.

"Any effort to secure the permission of an author or copyright owner in advance would entail disclosing information about the prospective content of a future examination paper.

"It is often necessary, for assessment related reasons, to abridge or otherwise edit the material used. For the same reasons as above, it is not possible to consult with authors in advance about such adaptations.

"In developing the question paper, the SEC considered Ms Dooley’s piece to be an interesting, thought-provoking and well-written ‘Sound Off’ article that provided an appropriate stimulus through which candidates could, in their engagement with and response to it, be allowed to demonstrate their critical faculties.

"The SEC regards the treatment that Ms Dooley has described as having been subjected to on social media since the appearance of yesterday’s English Junior Cycle  paper as completely unacceptable by any standard."

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