Thursday 23 November 2017

Election death threats man comes forward

Labour senator Lorraine Higgins. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Labour senator Lorraine Higgins. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

A MAN who threatened to murder a Labour politician with a hacksaw during the European election campaign has presented himself to gardai, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Labour senator Lorraine Higgins is preparing to press charges against the person who issued the chilling threat on her Facebook page last month.

Ms Higgins was subject to a tirade of online abuse in the days leading up to polling 
on May 23, with social network users brandishing the senator a "c**t", a "whore" and a "cretin", while others suggested she should have been "aborted" before birth.

The Sunday Independent today details the online abuse targeted at the Galway-based politician, the scale of which was discussed at cabinet level this week.

It has emerged that individuals who abused Ms Higgins, some of whom claim to be Sinn Fein supporters, continued to do so after the election result.

Gardai in Athenry have launched a formal investigation after the details of the death threat were passed on by Ms Higgins.

It's understood that officers made contact with a man who posted on Ms Higgins's Facebook page:

"She's a whore that needs to shut her filth gee mouth, scummy bitch cow, I'll f***in murder her with a hack saw, SWEAR DOWN BLOOD."

The man signed off the vile message with the hashtag "thug life chose me".

A source confirmed that the man presented himself to Store Street Garda Station 
after being contacted by 
officers and now faces the likelihood of being charged.

Incredibly, the man himself made reference to being under investigation for death threats as recently as last week.

"We can't even use our words anymore or we're being investigated for death threats, mid Galway pikey n***ers," he wrote.

The man continued to abuse Ms Higgins, a qualified barrister and member of the Law Library, and has encouraged other users to do the same.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent this weekend, 
Ms Higgins said three individuals, including the man who made the death threat, have waged a relentless hate campaign against her in 
recent weeks.

"It was very difficult to stay focussed on canvassing when I was getting such vile abuse hurled at me day and night."

"The messages were particularly upsetting for my 
parents and my family," she said.

"Considering we have seen so many tragic cases in recent times of young people taking their own lives as a result of cyber-bullying, I feel I have to pursue this all the way. I will unmask these people in court because I have no doubt they will continue this type of despicable behaviour unless someone takes a stand," she added.

The details of Ms Higgins's death threat were revealed as ministers express deep alarm at the scale of abuse levelled at candidates during the election campaign.

The likely next Labour leader Joan Burton spoke at length on the issue at this week's meeting of the parliamentary party meeting. And one cabinet minister last night admitted that Ms Higgins's abuse had "taken us all by surprise".

"She has shown extraordinary resolve to hang on in there. This has reached a new level and certainly there is consensus that something needs to be done," the 
minister said.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte last week pledged to update legislation to deal with "the sending of messages which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing".

The Department of Justice is also looking at the sinister phenomenon of online abuse.

Sunday Independent

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