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Saturday 10 December 2016

'Online trolls broke me with pure hate', says model mum

Model Michelle Marie and inset her message on Twitter
Model Michelle Marie and inset her message on Twitter

A plus-size model who curated the @Ireland Twitter account has said racial and homophobic abuse online left her "broken".

Brave Michelle Marie became a global sensation after enduring a stream of abuse.

The Oxford-born mum, who has lived in Mayo for the past three years, suffered a litany of comments about her race and physical appearance within hours of starting her stint on the popular profile.

Speaking after the experience, Michelle said the abuse "really did break" her.

Break

"Yesterday, it really did break me. I wasn't in a good way, which was why I decided to step away from the account," she said.

"I really went into it thinking there would be a handful of trolls and negativity that I could just gloss over and carry on.

"Instead I just got a non-stop barrage of racism, sexism, sizism, homophobia, everything.

"It was just pure hate."

She also said that many of the trolls were not from Ireland - with some of the worst offenders hailing from the US.

"For me, I've been lucky that this is a one-off experience, but for lots of people this is what they encounter on a regular basis," she said.

The abuse forced Michelle offline temporarily but she has since returned to take the helm of the account again.

"I decided that for my peace of mind and well-being, it was better just to remove myself from that situation. I don't want those trolls to win.

"I'm a good person, and have a message that's worth sharing. There are people who have been supportive and want to hear what I have to say, and that made me want to try and see the week out," she said.

Website IrishCentral.com set up the @Ireland account in 2012, and selects a different person to run it each week.

Shane O'Curry, director of European Anti-Racism Network Ireland (ENAR), said the incident highlighted "how unequal Ireland is".

"This woman couldn't curate a Twitter account without coming across such vitriolic abuse," he told the Herald.

Between 15pc and 20pc of the complaints of racist incidents made to ENAR last year related to online incidents, he said.

Harass

"There is unfortunately a group of people who have been empowered by access to social media to exercise their darkest fantasies, harass and make life miserable for people."

Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said that 12pc of racist incidents reported to the council's hotline last year also happened on the web.

"The @Ireland account is a wonderful use of technology, showing the huge diversity... in our State," he said.

"We think [Michelle is] exactly the kind of person we can be proud to call Irish."

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