Monday 22 October 2018

Oireachtas IP address whitewashes Senator Jim Walsh’s same-sex marriage comments on Wikipedia

David Kearns

Comments made by a former Fianna Fáil senator saying money spent on the same-sex marriage referendum "would be better spent on HIV testing for the gay community" have been removed from a Wikipedia entry by an Oireachtas IP address.

A wiki page profiling Senator Jim Walsh underwent a number of revisions on Monday afternoon, with many sections critical of the long serving politician being edited.

An IP address originating from Leinster House was spotted making changes to the Wikipedia article shortly after 2 pm.

The changes and the origins of the editor’s IP address were highlighted by T.J. McIntyre, a law lecturer at University College Dublin.

Senator's Walsh Wikipedia entry before the revisions Oireachtas IP address
Senator's Walsh Wikipedia entry before the revisions Oireachtas IP address

Among the revisions made to the article were the removal of a number of controversial comments by Mr Walsh about homosexuals and the same-sex marriage referendum.

These changes were made by a user using the IP address 137.191.234.98 – which is shared by all outbound Internet traffic coming from the Oireachtas.

Senator's Walsh Wikipedia entry after the revisions by the Oireachtas IP address
Senator's Walsh Wikipedia entry after the revisions by the Oireachtas IP address

Under a passage entitled ‘Civil partnership legislation’, a paragraph referencing the "Pantigate" controversy was removed by the user behind this IP address.

The section included arguments from Mr Walsh, where he described some proponents of same-sex marriage as "dangerous and vicious".

The Wexford senator made the comments during a Seanad debate in February 2014, saying: “It’s totally unacceptable and it’s intended obviously to intimidate and prevent people from engaging in open debate and open speech on a matter for social re-engineering.”

Mr Walsh resigned from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party over its support for the Children and Family Relationships Bill 2015.

Left, in yellow, the passages removed from the article, right, in blue, where additions have been made
Left, in yellow, the passages removed from the article, right, in blue, where additions have been made
The IP address 137.191.234.98 made changes shortly after 2 pm and again at 2:14 pm. It also made minor changes back in August 20

Another section of the article edited includes comments made in March 2015; when Mr Walsh claimed a gay man had told him the money being spent on the same-sex referendum “would be better spent on HIV testing for gay community”.

Speaking in the Seanad on March 31 of this year, Mr Walsh said he spoke to a gay man over the weekend about the referendum who said “it was going to cost the taxpayer €21 million.”

“He said could be so much better spent… for example, if [it] were to be used to provide free HIV testing to people who are homosexual,” the senator added.

This exchange has been removed and replaced with an entry highlighting the senator’s commitment to both Republican and Christian values – including right to life, the protection of the unborn, and the need for preserving and supporting the family ‘in pursuit of the best interests of children and fundamental to the well being of society’.

The passage also now stresses Mr Walsh’s wish for a united Ireland.

Also removed from the wiki page were comments by the Wexford politician in November 2009, when he claimed women working outside the home had become a major cause of depression in young people.

Independent.ie was unable to reach Senator Walsh regarding these changes to his Wikipedia entry, while a spokesperson for the Oireachtas declined to comment.

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