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'Troll threatened to throw acid into my face' - abuse hell of female politicians

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Social media threats (pic posed

Social media threats (pic posed

Social media threats (pic posed

A former TD was told she would have acid thrown in her face and another had faeces thrown at her in public, a study of women in politics has found.

Nearly two in five women politicians have reported threats of sexual assault, the NUI Galway research showed.

The study also found online abuse of women in politics is on the rise.

"I was repeatedly targeted by a troll who threatened to throw acid in my face," a former female TD told researchers.

"Another once said he knew where I lived and he'd be in my garden waiting for me."

A quarter of politicians said they have been verbally abused in public and 75pc said they have been threatened through social media with physical violence.

Ninety-six per cent of those interviewed have received social media or email messages that used threatening language.

"Some of these results are truly shocking," said Tom Felle, head of journalism and communication at NUI Galway.

"Social media has become a den of misogyny, a cesspit of trolls, where many female public representatives are abused and bullied regularly.

"Threats of physical violence are criminal acts and abuse of this nature is abhorrent."

Other female politicians said they had received threatening and abusive calls to their home landlines and via their mobile phones.

Some said they were worried about their family's safety as a result of threats on social media and they were not comfortable attending large public meetings unless accompanied.

Others have considered quitting politics as a result of the abuse.

Perception

Only a small number of the politicians said they had reported the abuse.

Of those who complained, some said they found it hard to get gardaĆ­ and social media firms to take the threats seriously.

They felt there was a perception that politicians were "fair game".

"At a time when society needs to see more women entering politics, there's a real danger this behaviour will have a chilling effect and discourage women from running for public office. The findings are particularly telling in local government," Mr Felle said.

The findings are the result of research carried out by a team from NUI Galway's journalism and communications team.

Current and former female members of the Oireachtas as well as female councillors from all major political parties were interviewed in the study.

The findings are due to be presented today to an online seminar, Cyber Harassment: Women in Politics and Online Abuse.

It is organised by the European Parliament's committee on women's rights and gender equality and the National Women's Council of Ireland.

The findings are part of ongoing research by academics in Galway.

The first 69 interviews were carried out between last Nov- ember and March this year and more are planned.