Bray’s Cllr Grace McManus took part in a ‘Stop Online Abuse’ webinar hosted by the National Women’s Council.
Cllr McManus and other councillors from different local authorities in Ireland met online on Thursday to discuss the impact of online abuse on women’s political participation.
She ran in 2019 and was the first openly gay woman to do so in Wicklow. “Unfortunately I experienced online harassment about that and my gender expression,” she said.
She said during the meeting that t it was hard to hear what her colleagues across the country have been through.
In terms of what action can be taken, she mentioned that the online safety bill is soon to come before the Houses of the Oireachtas. “Maybe there’s a role here for solidarity among elected representatives to make sure that the online safety bill also protects us,” she said.
Expressing solidarity with others is vital in tackling such instances, she said. “My colleagues stood with me when it happened,” said Cllr McManus. “That was very powerful”
Women continue to experience high levels of misogyny and abuse in carrying out their everyday roles as public representatives. This gendered abuse, particularly online, is becoming an increasing barrier to women's political participation.
Other participants include Cllr Uruemu Adejinmi of Longford County Council, Cllr Hazel Chu of Dublin City Council and Cllr Elisa O’Donovan of Limerick City and County Council.
This was the second in a series which is running in tandem with research being carried out by the National Women's Council on how political parties address online abuse and harassment.
Cllr McManus said that politicians are entitled to their wellbeing and boundaries. “It’s okay for politicians to be human and we don’t have to accept less than that, and we can support each other in that.”
She also said that while she hasn’t had to go to gardaí, she knows others who have, and there are mechanisms in palace.
“We also need to talk to our men. If we’re talking about gendered abuse we have to talk to them consistently about what that means to us. I think they want to know and they care. And if male public representatives are getting harassed, we should show solidarity with them also.”