herald

Monday 26 February 2018

Fine Gael unable to get in touch with member who posted vile tweets

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell
Fine Gael TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell

Fine Gael has been unable to contact a senior member of its national executive responsible for a raft of vile online posts about women.

Barry Walsh has not issued a statement since Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell distributed a dossier of offensive statements he has made on social media.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also waded into the controversy, telling the Herald he believes the language used by Mr Walsh is "not acceptable", although he stopped short of publicly seeking his resignation.

Mr Walsh referred to Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and the Social Democrats' Roisin Shortall as "b***hes".

He also called well-known actor and writer Tara Flynn a "killer" for having an abortion.

Well-placed sources say officials in the party were aware of the crude comments, which were publicly posted, but did not intervene.

Former general election candidate Stephanie Regan told the Herald: "Barry has worked hard for the party and has a history with the party. He was protected."

Mr Walsh is well-known to the Taoiseach, who is an avid user of social media. He backed Mr Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership contest.

Derogatory

Prior to that, he was the director of elections in Dublin Bay North last year when Ms Regan and Education Minister Richard Bruton were on the ticket.

He also previously worked as parliamentary assistant to Lucinda Creighton and was based in Government Buildings.

Ms Regan said she called him out for describing women as "b***hes" on Twitter almost a year ago.

"I said to him at the time, 'Barry you need to rethink your derogatory language when it comes to women'," she said.

Fine Gael's national executive is to meet later this month to discuss the complaints. However, as far back as May 2016 Mr Walsh's tweets were garnering attention online.

Among the most notable of his Twitter posts was an attack on Ms Flynn, who is the voice of TV3's Blind Date. She has spoken publicly about her experience because it's "too easy to dismiss faceless stories".

Six weeks ago, Mr Walsh tweeted: "From what Tara Flynn says, she was pregnant and just couldn't be bothered having a baby. So she had it killed. Why is she a feminist hero?"

Speaking yesterday, Ms Flynn said: "It's genuinely frightening when it seems a senior member of a party in government is allowed to get away with misrepresenting you. I'm glad to see Fine Gael, and Kate O'Connell, taking it seriously."

Mr Walsh did not reply to queries and last night blocked his Twitter from public view.

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