Tuesday 20 August 2019

Anger at 'disgusting' online abuse of seriously-ill Brian Cowen

Fianna Fail TDs slam 'nasty' comments about former Taoiseach's illness

Brian Cowen arrives for an European Union summit on October 28, 2010 at the European Council headquarters in Brussels. Photo credit: GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images
Brian Cowen arrives for an European Union summit on October 28, 2010 at the European Council headquarters in Brussels. Photo credit: GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Fianna Fail TDs have criticised the "vile" online comments about former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who is being treated in hospital for a serious illness.

Mr Cowen fell ill last Thursday and remained in hospital last night where he is continuing to receive treatment.

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The vast majority of people have been sending Mr Cowen their well wishes during a very difficult time for him and his family. However, comments by some individuals on unregulated social media platforms were yesterday branded "disgusting" and "nasty" by senior Fianna Fail TDs.

The party's housing spokesperson Darragh O'Brien, who is a long-time friend of Mr Cowen's, said he was shocked by the depravity of some online comments.

"Some of the comments have been absolutely disgusting and totally insensitive to Brian and his family," he said.

"Regardless of your views or your political persuasion, you would think people would be more sensitive to someone who is going through a terrible situation."

Hospitalised: Brian Cowen
Hospitalised: Brian Cowen

The front-bench TD said some of the commentary around Mr Cowen was tantamount to "hate speech".

"This is not the first time something like this has happened and it shows how dangerous and vile social media has become," he said.

Fianna Fail equality spokesperson Fiona O'Loughlin said she could not believe how "nasty and vile" people could be online about someone who was seriously ill.

"He might have been Taoiseach, but he is now a private citizen. Brian and his family are entitled to absolute privacy at this time and I think some of the comments show the vile underbelly of social media."

She said she hoped Mr Cowen recovered fully from his illness.

Mr Cowen has received huge amounts of public support from people wishing him a speedy recovery after he was checked into a Dublin hospital.

There has been cross-party support for him and his family, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan sending their best wishes.

Mr Cowen's Fianna Fail colleagues have also been sending their thoughts and prayers to the former Taoiseach.

Mr O'Brien said: "I know Brian very well and count him as a good mate of mine and someone I remain close to.

"My family are thinking of him and his family and wishing him the best today."

Yesterday, long-serving Fianna Fail TD and former minister Willie O'Dea said there were some "very sick and twisted" people on social media.

"Thankfully they are only a very small section of the public and most people are hoping Brian fully recovers.

"I've known Brian since he was one of my students in UCD and we were great friends in politics, too."

Former Fianna Fail deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv said his thoughts were with Mr Cowen and his family.

"I wish him a very speedy recovery and full recovery, and I think it is well known I have great respect for what he did during a very difficult time for this country.

"My thoughts are with him and his family at this difficult time."

Mr Cowen was also taken to hospital in May when he became ill at an Oireachtas golf event. He was reportedly taken by ambulance to Limerick Regional Hospital after becoming unwell at the event at Lahinch Golf Club in Clare.

He recovered, and attended public events soon after, including the funeral of GAA legend Eugene McGee.

Mr Cowen has kept a relatively low profile since stepping down from national politics.

He is married to Mary and is a father of two daughters, Sinead and Meadhbh.

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