Wednesday 21 February 2018

Emer O'Kelly: Abuse, written or spoken, both corrodes and destroys

Emer O'Kelly

Leaving aside the genuine grief that his death seemed to engender almost universally, what stunned people about Shane McEntee's death by suicide was his mature age.

We have become tragically accustomed to the suicide of middle-aged men when they have financial problems, and find themselves unable to cope with their loss of status and self-esteem as breadwinners. But when a popular, highly-regarded government minister with status in his profession and his community, and a respected family background is driven to the ultimate terrible step, and that step is attributed at least in part to vicious abuse and insults delivered through social media, we are forced to face up to the fragility that lies within us all.

Abuse, whether written or spoken, is a true darkness of the soul. It corrodes and destroys. That it usually damages the person who indulges in it as much as it does the recipient is ironic but of no comfort. But it is not a new phenomenon; it existed long before the arrival of the internet and its concomitant possibilities for anonymous viciousness. And certainly everybody in what is loosely called 'public life' is and always has been subject to it.

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