'big problem' | 

TD reveals she was ‘absolutely terrified’ after online stalker turned up at her home

She was then forced to install CCTV and a domestic security system at her home.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns

Seoirse MulgrewIndependent.ie

A female TD has spoken about the level of abuse women in politics receive and highlighted her own experience of a stalker repeatedly showing up at her home.

Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns described the sexual nature of abusive comments sent to her online and by post.

Speaking on Virgin Media’s The Group Chat podcast, Ms Cairns, who represents Cork South West and is the only female TD for the entire county of Cork, said she was even sent clippings from pornography featuring other women named 'Holly'.

The 33-year-old revealed that a persistent online stalker began to show up at her home which left her “absolutely terrified”.

“It started off with I would get online messages from anonymous accounts and there’s obviously the different variations of abuse that you get,” she said.

“There’s the public commentary that everyone can see and then there’s private messages, voice notes, letters, and then there’s in person. I think that was the scale that it went with for me over time.

“It did get worse and worse and worse over time, and maybe I didn’t realise how much it was building up.

“It wasn’t until somebody, who had started off with messages to my work phone, then ended up turning up at the house on several occasions and wouldn’t stop doing that, that it changed everything for me.

“When I was up in Dublin there would be messages coming in saying, ‘I’m outside your house’, and it went on for a long time. I think the worst is when it comes to your door.”

Ms Cairns was then forced to install CCTV and a domestic security system at her home.

“It really changed how I behaved in every single thing I did then. I didn’t have any kind of security and now I have CCTV, I have locks and I’m hyper aware,” she said.

“The guards have advised me that I can’t have a constituency clinic, the traditional one you advertise and then people come meet you about their issues because I’m advertising where I am and that I’ll be alone potentially.

“It impacts you every step of the way. For a while, it genuinely got to me so much I took a big step back from doing any media but after a bit of time I had the realisation that it’s really my job to highlight issues.

“There is that feeling that you don’t want them to win, I don’t want to admit that it did get to me and there’s also, particularly I think when you’re a female politician, the perception of being weak is something you don’t want to put out there.”

Ms Cairns said the level of abuse politicians receive on a daily basis is a “big problem”. She said a lot of the abuse has nothing to do with individual policies.

“I think all TDs get abuse, I think it’s an across-the-board problem, it’s just the nature of it is very different that women get,” she said.

“It’s always gendered, maybe it’s very sexualised but I don’t actually know if women get more or not but it’s a big problem for both.

“Something is changing in our society, and we do have to look at why that is, and it seems to me like there are a lot of people now who just feel like they’ve nothing to lose.

“One of the reasons I never wanted to speak about it before was deterring women from going into politics because I think one of the things that would help is if we have more diversity in politics.”

Ms Cairns admitted that she might never have run for election had she known the level of abuse she would face throughout the course of her job.

"If I knew what I was getting myself into, no, I would not have done it. I'm glad I didn't know? 100pc. Because I don't regret it. But honestly, had I known... probably, no, I wouldn't have done it," she said.

Season three of The Group Chat airs at 11pm on Wednesday nights on Virgin Media Two and is available to download on all major podcast platforms on Thursday morning.


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