Monday 22 January 2018

Backchat: Same-sex marriage debate entices cowardly creeps to vent online

Former president Mary McAleese, pictured with her husband Martin, of 40 years, was subjected to abuse from online trolls after expressing her views on the upcoming marriage referendum.
Former president Mary McAleese, pictured with her husband Martin, of 40 years, was subjected to abuse from online trolls after expressing her views on the upcoming marriage referendum.
Some of those behind the Yes Vote campaign.
Napping on the job

Chris Donoghue

I received a message this week asking me, in lurid terms, a question I couldn't repeat here. It followed a radio piece I presented about the marriage referendum and I can only guess that the guy was making some point about parentage.

Maybe the guy is a creep in life as well as online, maybe not, but his was one of a number of messages this week that really shocked me.

It's not strange for messages and letters to be personal and hate-filled and I try to ignore them, but the marriage referendum is really bringing out horrible comments from people who might otherwise be quite decent.

The stuff I receive pales in comparison however to the slurs thrown at former President Mary McAleese and Iona Institute patron Breda O'Brien, both of whom gave in-depth interviews during the week on the referendum.

For her part Mary McAleese argued for a 'yes' vote stating, "We want the children of the nation to be cherished equally. The adult children, the children yet unborn, the gay children yet unborn. We want them to be born into a world where if they fall in love with someone they can express that love fully and that they can live the kind of life that Martin (McAleese) and I have, we're coming up to 40 years married now."

In reaction Breda O'Brien said, "I think it will be extraordinary if thanks to the intervention of iar Uachtarain na hEireann, the former President of Ireland, that one gay child will be denied the right that Mary and Martin's children have had, the rights to a mother and father. I do believe that this is a human rights issue, and I think it is primarily about the rights of children."

Most people will wholeheartedly agree with one of the women and not the other. That's fine, it's part of the debate we are having and on May 22 every man and every woman will have equal power with their fellow citizens by casting their vote, yes or no.

However just because you disagree and are perhaps offended by the opinions expressed by Mary McAleese or Breda O'Brien, does not mean you have carte blanche in responding to them. By all means object, counter argue and hold your ground but I have read comments on the state of both women's marriages, how they speak, how they dress and far worse.

I think people should look back at the last 10 tweets, Facebook comments or online posts they have filed and ask if that's really who they are and if that is how they would behave if they were face-to-face with the person they are commenting on.

As a footnote, the majority of people who post vile messages don't have the backbone to show their faces or give their names.

On an even more serious note, another vicious online trend became illegal in the UK this week. The posting of intimate images without a person's consent is now a crime and punishable by up to two years in prison. It is commonly known as "revenge porn", the ultimate humiliation after a relationship break up or should you happen to access an image of someone you want to belittle. It can be an image of someone naked or topless or a video of sexual activity. The majority of victims of this are women.

There are rules against it on most websites, but their safeguards are quite pathetic, with a 40-day period for an image or video to be removed or a 'fast track' process for the most serious offences of 20 days for removal. In truth the damage is done in four minutes which is ample time for the material to be copied, downloaded and redistributed.

The trend is getting more prevalent in Ireland too. The Digital Rights Europe Conference in Dublin this week heard that more people are coming forward having discovered through friends or family that intimate images of them are online.

Barrister Fergal Crehan gave this insight into the Irish people posting revenge porn: "The scary thing is in some scenarios it wasn't necessarily a nasty break up. I have seen cases where the relationship broke up some years before and then this picture popped up one day without reason. It didn't necessarily have to be in the context of a really nasty break up, just an ordinary break up."

Posting vicious comments and revenge porn are a world apart and without a doubt some creeps have just found new outlets in which to be creeps. However it's the otherwise decent people who allow themselves to stray into this territory that troubles me.

As Fergal Crehan put it: "An awful lot of this behaviour is being facilitated by the ease of smart phones. Step back, are you not mortified that you've become that person?"

Chris Donoghue co-presents Newstalk Breakfast Show with Ivan Yates every weekday morning from 6:30 and 10am.


I work odd hours, lots of people do. However I'm a good napper, I often steal 40 winks and wake up refreshed. Having said that I nod off in chairs, government press conferences or on the bus but never on train tracks, construction sites or in the belly of an aircraft. My point is, although you can be tired you tend to maintain your personal safety.

The baggage handler who took a nap in the cargo hold and caused an emergency landing of an Air Alaska flight on Monday must feel like an awful fool. His nine-hour shift was over and nothing else was expected of him except to go home.

He didn't.

An initial report has found the man, an employee of 18 months, breached rules by sleeping in an aircraft (Poirot!) but was drug-free at the time. The way is clear for him to return to work pending a wider investigation. Imagine the walk of shame the first time he faces his colleagues.

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