A Sinn Féin senator has been forced to report online abuse to the gardaí following a spate of homophobic and threatening messages.
Fintan Warfield, who is a member of the LGBT+ community, has now locked all of his social media profiles following a fresh wave of abuse.
Mr Warfield said Twitter was becoming “the most homophobic and transphobic space” in most LGBT+ people’s lives, and he would be contacting the social network which bases its European headquarters in Ireland. He said that abuse which started online has now started to spread to in-person abuse, leading to an incident near Leinster House this week.
The 28 year old politician has been a prominent supporter of LGBT+ rights since he was first elected in 2016 and has also campaigned against conversion therapy.
Mr Warfield has been repeatedly targeted by right-wing homophobic abuse over the course of his career. This week, more abuse appeared to follow a speech that Mr Warfield made in the Seanad about trans rights for teenagers.
Anonymous abusers have targeted all of Mr Warfield’s social media profiles and also the profiles of those close to him. Messages seen by the Irish Independent included threats. In one post, a troll told Mr Warfield he would be “removed, mark my words.”
Mr Warfield told the Irish Independent that he is now going to have to report some of the messages to the gardaí. The senator has called on social networks like Twitter to take action against online abuse before they’re forced to through law.
"It’s become so toxic that Twitter is basically the most homophobic and transphobic space in most people’s lives,” Mr Warfield said.
The senator has been sent a number of tweets which conflate homosexuality with paedophilia, and has also had threatening comments left underneath Instagram pictures of him with some of his loved ones. Mr Warfield said that following some of the abuse this week, he was abused on the street while walking home from work.
“It became even more sinister and disturbing this week when I was walking home from work in Leinster House on Wednesday evening, someone said ‘alright pervert’ to me, unprovoked. I didn’t respond and just walked on. It just seemed too coincidental to hear that type of language on the street when online, words like ‘degenerate’ or ‘pervert’ were being directed at me,” he told the Irish Independent.
“I didn’t respond because these people are so disgruntled and harbour so much hate toward members of the LGBTQI communities that I could have been followed, physically attacked or the people closest to me put in danger. That might sound extreme but it’s only when a dramatic turn like that happens do people begin to sit up and think about what we need to do to address this.”
The abuse of Mr Warfield follows Roderic O’Gorman, the children’s minister, enduring what he described as a “far-right social media pile-on” by groups which misused the Green party politicians sexuality to spread misinformation about child protection issues.
It followed similar abuse against Mr O’Gorman’s predecessor, Katherine Zappone, who was criticised by anonymous trolls for being a children’s minister who is a lesbian.