'Traumatic' | 

RTÉ’s Emer O’Neill subjected to ‘nonstop’ online abuse since Tommy Tiernan callout

Taking to Instagram on Thursday, she revealed that a “horrendous influx of hate speech and threats” flooded her inbox after she put Tommy on blast.

Emer O'Neill

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

RTÉ presenter Emer O’Neill has said that she received thousands of “triggering and traumatic” messages from trolls after speaking out against Tommy Tiernan over a stereotypical joke at one of his shows.

The Bray native left the Vicar Street gig soon after the comedian told the offensive joke onstage, later writing online: “A night that was to be fun and full of laughter turned sour with a way too close to the bone joke”.

Taking to Instagram on Thursday, she revealed that a “horrendous influx of hate speech and threats” flooded her inbox after she called Tommy out.

Tommy Tiernan got a lesson from Patrick Kielty

Speaking to the Sunday World, Emer said she “could not wrap my mind around” some of the hate she received but admitted she was “not shocked” by the volume of messages as it’s not the first time she’s experienced something like this.

“I posted a few of the thousands of comments that are out there on my Instagram. There are probably around 6,000 comments across different social media outlets and 90pc of them are things like, ‘Go back to Africa.’

“It was coming from real accounts run by real people. They’re the mums and dads standing beside you when you’re at the football match with your kids... They’re your family members, they’re even people from my town that I know personally that have messaged me directly.

“The commentary is around leaving Ireland to the Irish and that Africans should go back to Africa and that there’s a need for more black jokes because they’re hilarious.

“It was very triggering and traumatic for people from my community to see this because it really showed how ingrained racism is in our society.

“They’re talking to people that were born and raised here or emigrated here and call Ireland home. You would think we would be proud that people want to live here and call themselves Irish.

“I’m one of the proudest Irish people you will ever meet. I love our language, my kids go to gaelscoils and it’s very important to me that they’re fluent, I love the bodhrán and the tin whistle, I loved going to fleadhs with my mum and joining in on trad sessions in the pub.”

Tommy has since reached out to Emer to apologise for the joke, which the TV presenter said she’s “so appreciative of”.

On Friday, Tommy’s representatives issued a statement addressing the standup routine, which was read out on Today with Claire Byrne.

“On Friday the 6 of January, Tommy told a joke on stage as part of his stand-up routine,” it said.

“As soon as he received a complaint, he spoke to that audience member to understand where he went wrong.

"He immediately removed the joke from the set and apologised both personally by phone and email and publicly by addressing it on stage the following night and every night since reiterating his apology.

“Tommy does not condone any negative online comments received by this audience member and most definitely not in his defence.”

Emer said that the Navan funnyman could take things one step further by apologising to not only her, but to “the people of Ireland”.

“I’m not going to take that away from him at all because I appreciate him reaching out to me. I think it speaks volumes about the type of person he is,” she said of the email and phone call she received from him.

“But I definitely did say to him that a public statement from him would be so powerful for our community.

“I appreciate that he’s apologised to me. But what about the people of Ireland, our allies, and the people from the ethnic minority community?

“I think they deserve some kind of acknowledgment because I wasn’t the only one that suffered from what ensued with the aftermath of this because a lot of the rhetoric changed from being just a personal attack against me for standing up for what I believe to an attack on our entire community”.

Emer added that she “won’t stop” calling out racism in Irish society because she wants to see change for her kids.

“My son is growing up and going through all of the same things that I did, the same traumas. It’s one of the main reasons why I do what I do.

“I want him to be treated just like everybody else. I want him to be able to live his life without the constant question of where he’s really from, or having to hear the n-word just about everywhere he goes, and for him to have the same opportunities as every other Irish person.

“And that’s why we, as allies and people from our community, won’t stop speaking out, no matter how tired of hearing of it some people are,” she added.

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