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  • Northside West

Councillor targeted by online trolls

Monday, 19th February, 2018 9:00am
Councillor targeted by online trolls

Cllr Declan Meenagh (Lab) is taking time out from social media.

Councillor targeted by online trolls

Cllr Declan Meenagh (Lab) is taking time out from social media.

Adam Daly

A VISUALLY impaired Labour party representative has quit all social media after extensive bullying from a fake Twitter account.

Declan Meenagh, a representative for the Cabra and Finglas area, says he felt compelled to abandon social media after being ‘trolled’ about his disability from a fake Twitter account under the name LabourLeftIRE.

‘’I don’t mind if someone is attacking my political beliefs, but someone was having a go at my disability and saying I had another disability that I didn't,” Cllr Meenagh said.

“Using disability as a weapon to attack the Labour Party is in no way acceptable.

“Trying to enter public life with a disability is a huge challenge.

“It’s just really upsetting, so that's why I decided to step away from social media.”

Cllr Meenagh has a rare eye condition called RP, which limits what he can see. He is also dyslexic, so has difficulty with spelling.

The Twitter account, which had no affiliation to the Labour Party, was operating under the party name and had accumulated a few hundred followers. 

‘’It wasn’t a Labour page, it was a fake account,” said Cllr Meenagh.

“I’m very active in the party, I know all the people operating in it and that page was not real.

“It’s a bit freaky, because you don’t know who set it up or why it was there.”

Cllr Meenagh has tweeted to his Twitter followers confirming he would stop engaging with social media but has vowed to continue to be available through his email.

‘’I am really upset and angry about the abuse I have been subjected to as I try to help my community as a person with a disability,” he told them.

“For my own safety and health, I am taking a break for a while so I can review the situation.” 

Labour Party spokesperson, Siobhan Power, said the party was constantly reporting the fake account but because it did not breach any Twitter standards, were not able to get it taken down until it became hostile towards Cllr Meenagh. 

“New accounts may arise particularly with the upcoming referendum,” she added.

“We’ll be working with social media companies to make sure our members are safe online and we will be reporting accounts that are not associated with our official channels. Anything out of character will be reported.”

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin also highlighted the issue of fake accounts on Twitter.

“During the repeal the 8th campaign we are likely to see false and fake accounts that give misleading views pop up on Twitter,” he tweeted last month.

“Accounts like @labourleftire are not real labour accounts.” 

Meenagh plans to return to social media, as he believes Twitter is a great tool to connect with others, but he’s conscious that the abuse could continue.

“I am in a support group online where we check in on Twitter using a hashtag,” he said.

“It can be really empowering. I know there is a risk going back online because whoever set up the original page is still out there.

“I don’t know what their issue is with me. My number one assumption is that they really do not like the Labour Party.”

 

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here