| 8.7°C Dublin

Sickening stunt Anti-racism campaigner’s breast cancer awareness photo used in fake 'prostitute' ad by sick trolls

Under the capitalised words 'FOR RENT' is the image Fiona used three years ago as part of a ­widespread campaign by women to highlight breast cancer awareness.

Close

Fiona O’Leary’s husband’s phone number is on the poster

Fiona O’Leary’s husband’s phone number is on the poster

Fiona O’Leary’s husband’s phone number is on the poster

Vile 'trolls' who used an anti- racism campaigner's breast cancer awareness picture to falsely advertise her as a prostitute are at the centre of a Garda manhunt.

They created a sickening poster featuring the image of a post-surgery Fiona O'Leary - and placed it at a location in north Dublin over the past week.

The poster, which includes the phone number of Fiona's husband Tim, read: "For rent, discount rate for DP (Direct Provision) Centre residents, call Dimmy 086 ******8. No Fascists! Must wear three masks and have the Covid vaccine."

Under the capitalised words 'FOR RENT' is the image Fiona used three years ago as part of a ­widespread campaign by women to highlight breast cancer awareness.

"It's like something some psychopath in a horror ­movie would do," Fiona told the Sunday World.

Close

The posters use an image of Fiona taken for Breast Cancer Awareness month

The posters use an image of Fiona taken for Breast Cancer Awareness month

The posters use an image of Fiona taken for Breast Cancer Awareness month

"This goes beyond social media trolling - my naked body is being shared and put up on posters advertising prostitution.

"The thought that someone is driving around out there, with posters of me in a car or van, that really frightens me."

Fiona, who believes the sign is the work of racist elements she has been campaigning against for the last number of years, learned of the vile plot after a man rang looking to 'rent' her as a prostitute on Thursday.

Fiona, who lives in west Cork, alerted gardaí in Swords who are now reviewing CCTV at the locations where the posters had been put up.

"About five days ago, my husband Tim got a call from a mobile," Fiona, whose son Dillon is battling Hodgkin's Lymphoma, said. "The number wasn't blocked, none of the numbers people have called from have been, and the person was asking how much I was to rent.

"Tim didn't tell me because he didn't want to worry me. In total, there have been three different numbers and about five different calls over the past week.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

"Today's call [Thursday] was the first I actually answered, because Tim was taking Dillon's blood pressure.

"We need to monitor Dillon very closely because he's receiving treatment for cancer at the moment," she explained.

"The person on the phone asked: 'Is this a prostitute?'

"The person was ­actually trying to make an appointment because some of these people actually think that this is real.

"Then he rang back again and I asked him to stop harassing me and to leave me alone. But he said: 'I'm not doing anything, I saw you in the poster - what are you talking about?' Then he hung up again and he sent me an image of the poster."

Fiona said the man rang back a third time and told her the poster had been put up in the Swords Manor estate in Swords, north Dublin.

"After he sent me that poster, I tried to ring my local station in Cork and when I couldn't get through I rang gardaí in Swords in Dublin," Fiona recalled.

"I spoke to a lovely garda there and he asked me to email the poster to him so I did.

"He rang me back to say the sergeant had gotten on to the people who called me because I'd sent him the numbers as well.

"And he said they had sent squad cars out to look for the posters."

Asked where the picture in the poster had originated from, Fiona said it was taken in 2018 for Breast Cancer Awareness month. "It was a campaign that was begun by Serena Williams, the tennis player," she said.

"She had posted an image of herself topless on Twitter to highlight breast cancer awareness. It was something that many women did afterwards to show the scars they had following operations.

"I have a really large scar on my right breast. I had a lump on my breast that was so big it was sticking out and you could see it so I underwent surgery for that when I was 24.

"I had to wait three weeks to see if I had cancer, it was the worst three weeks of my life, but I was lucky because it was benign. I also took part in that ­campaign because I had a friend who died of ­ cancer - a neighbour who lived next to me in Skibbereen years ago.

"She had a lump, she had surgery, and she was dead in a few short years. So to see that picture used like this is utterly deplorable.

"It's sexist and it's misogynistic but it's also the fact that they knew that this picture had been taken to highlight breast cancer.

"The women, like me, who took those pictures did it to highlight the fact these scars were not something to be ashamed of and that they were not a bad thing.

"I'm just so disgusted, I don't think I have even processed this right now.

"And this is being used against me at a time when our son Dillon has been fighting cancer for the last six months.

"Dillon is 28. We don't know what Dillon's prognosis is yet because we won't have the results of his latest scan until May 13."

Asked if she has any idea who is behind the sickening poster campaign, Fiona said there is a list of different factions she has campaigned.

"I have campaigned against the far right and their hate speech and racism and for the rights of people in Direct Provision. I have also campaigned against anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.

"And they mention a number of these things in the posters.

"They mention Direct Provision and the masks and say 'no fascists allowed'.

"Some of the worst abuse I have gotten online is related to my work against racism and has been directly in relation to that.

"I absolutely believe this is part of a wider right-wing campaign against me that has been going on for years online.

"I'm worried and I'm frightened by this because up until now the abuse and harassment I've suffered has come in the form of telephone calls or online.

"But this is now happening in the real world. They have put my face and body out there in the most ­degrading way, like I'm a piece of meat.

"I want these people caught - I want them to face justice.

"The gardaí in Dublin so far have been really great and have been very aggressive in pursing this.

"They said there are cameras on the estate where the poster sent to me was so I'm confident they will catch the person who did it .

"The worst thing in this, and none of this is good, is the fact they have mentioned my husband Tim and have included his phone number. Previously in some of the online harassment I've received, some of those targeting me referred to Tim as 'Dimmy' and that what's in the poster.

"This goes beyond social media trolling. But I'm not going to lie down and let them away with it."

Gardaí said: "Gardaí are carrying out inquiries following receipt of a complaint of harassment made by a woman, aged in her 40s, at Dunmanway Garda Station, Cork, on 29/04/2021.

Anyone with information can contact Swords Garda station on 01 6664700 or the Garda Confidential line on 1800 666 111.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Sunday World


Privacy