Fitzgerald vows to tackle online abusers
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has declared hate crimes, including cyber-bullying, abuse and online grooming of children, as "one of the very big issues of our time".
She was speaking in the wake of revelations by Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins that she was emailed twice this month by an anonymous online abuser who said that she would be shot and that they would like "nothing better than to fill a rat's mouth with lead." The writer of the abusive email threatened, "im going to blow your big f*****g jew nose right off" [sic].
Ms Fitzgerald said there are "very real concerns that are emerging in relation to some of the material on the internet, particularly in relation to child sex abuse. We see it in areas like hate crimes like radicalisation and images as well".
She pointed out that a new high-level forum had been put in place by the European Commission for internet service providers to identify criminal activity.
"Obviously, you need the back-up of law," she said. "The Sexual Offences Bill I'm bringing out in the next short period will deal with those offences against children and will have very clear legislation where, for example, grooming is taking place - even the early stages of it - it will be possible to prosecute for that."
On Monday, the Immigrant Council of Ireland called on the Government to use the publication of the sex crimes bill to ensure Ireland signs up to the international child protection measure, highlighting that Ireland is the only European nation that has failed to ratify a UN protocol on the sale of children.
Tánaiste Joan Burton also slammed the online abuse of Ms Higgins who she described as "a very fine young woman politician [who] has suffered levels of abuse by so-called keyboard warriors that is highly violent in terms of its language".
She added: "There is a standard of behaviour and human consideration that you don't use the internet as a vehicle to wantonly threaten to rape women."
Labour Women also released a statement deploring the emails to the Galway senator, vowing: "These threats will only make us fight harder and continue to work for a society where more women are elected to office and can go about their daily work without fear of violent and sinister intimidation."