Monday 19 August 2019

Taoiseach calls on senior FG member to resign after online abuse

  • Taoiseach calls on Barry Walsh to resign from executive council
  • Walsh is subject of a disciplinary procedure for alleged abusive and offensive online behaviour
  • 'I expect Fine Gael officers to set a higher standard' - Varadkar
Kate O'Connell reported abuse from (inset) Barry Walsh
Kate O'Connell reported abuse from (inset) Barry Walsh

Shona Murray in Gothenberg

The Taoiseach has called on senior Fine Gael member Barry Walsh to resign from the executive council of the party.

Mr Walsh is the subject of a disciplinary procedure for his alleged abusive and offensive online behaviour directed at female colleagues and others.

Barry Walsh with Enda Kenny, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar and Alison Meagher (then Young Fine Gael Dublin Organiser) in 2010. Photo: Maxpix
Barry Walsh with Enda Kenny, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar and Alison Meagher (then Young Fine Gael Dublin Organiser) in 2010. Photo: Maxpix

Speaking from Gothenburg, where he is attending a meeting of all EU heads of state and government, Mr Leo Varadkar said; "it would be for the best if he resigned and stepped down as a member of the Fine Gael executive council pending a disciplinary procedure which is now underway."

Mr Walsh’s online abuse was documented by TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell in a complaint she made to Fine Gael bosses on Wednesday evening.

Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday
Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday

He also allegedly took aim at other women in the public eye such as Sabina Higgins, the wife of President Michael D. Higgins, Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald and actor and pro-choice activist Tara Flynn.

The Taoiseach said, "Mr Walsh is below the standard of what I’d expect of a Fine Gael officer.

Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday
Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday

"There are lots of trolls and nasty people on Twitter but I expect Fine Gael officers to set a higher standard," he added. 

Over recent weeks Barry Walsh has posted a series of abusive tweets, targeting people who favour repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday
Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday

On Wednesday night, Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell handed out screengrabs of his twitter activity and informed party colleagues she has written to Fine Gael secretary general Tom Curran to complain about the abuse.

Mr Walsh had also made particularly crude references to actor Tara Flynn, who is the voice of ‘Blind Dates’ on TV3.

Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday
Kate O'Connell presented the dossier of printed tweets to the meeting on Wednesday

Independent.ie initially censored an abusive tweet about Ms Flynn – but she has now said that the full extent of the post should be publicised.

Ms Flynn has spoken about her own experience of seeking an abortion in the past and vocally supports a change in Ireland’s restrictive laws.

On October 1 Mr Walsh tweeted: “From what Tara Flynn says, she was pregnant and just couldn't be bothered having a baby. So she had it killed. Why is she a feminist hero?”

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms Flynn said: “It’s genuinely frightening when it seems a senior member of a party in government is allowed to get away with misrepresenting you.

“I’m glad to see Fine Gael, and Kate O’Connell in particular, taking it seriously.”

Ms Flynn also wrote a letter of complaint to Fine Gael bosses.

In other tweets Mr Walsh described Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall as “b**ches”.

In an unprecedented move Ms O’Connell printed out the social media posts and passed them around at a private meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators on Wednesday.

She also wrote a formal letter of complaint to the Fine Gael’s General Secretary Tom Curran.

On Saturday Mr Walsh posted a Twitter message in which he claimed that after an even-tempered debate on abortion, Ms O’Connell yodelled “Look at all them men, discussing our uteruses!”

He later accused her of using wrong statistics to back up her arguments, adding: “Looks like someone following tactic of hard-left pols: hear a false statistic that sounds good, don’t bother to check it, then repeat it as ‘fast’.”

Mr Walsh has been unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, Social Democrats' Roisin Shortall described the tweets as "nasty".

“He is like one of these many keyboard warriors who sits at home tweeting nasty things about people. Unfortunately there is lots of people like that. The difference with him is he has a fairly senior position within Fine Gael and I suppose it’s up to the Taoiseach to deal with that," she told Independent.ie.

“It is matter for Fine Gael. I certainly wouldn’t be happy with someone involved at a senior level in Social Democrats behaving like that and it would be dealt with it within the party.

“It’s not appropriate that someone senior within the party is expressing such unpleasant views.

“It doesn’t bother me that someone is calling me a b***ch, things like that happen all the time but he is actually wrong about me voting twice for budgets in the last government. I voted for one of them but he was inaccurate about that."

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section