'WRONG AND A DISGRACE' Cllr Michael Loftus has condemned online abuse.
Mayo County Council members passed a motion calling for regulation to be introduced to prevent the ‘scurrilous abuse’ of people and politicians on social media.
The motion received unanimous support from all councillors in the chamber who highlighted the personal abuse suffered by candidates during the General Election campaign. The issue was highlighted by Fianna Fáil councillor Michael Loftus who said ‘faceless people’ were getting away with abusing people on social media sites when they would be sued for the same comments in everyday life.
“To see the hurtful things that is being said about people I think is wrong and a disgrace. If the media write a word out of line they will be sued but people online seem to be getting away with it,” he said.
He was supported by Fine Gael councillor Peter Flynn who said he was sent a text on the morning of the election about a candidate which was ‘absolutely shocking’.
“It is not right and people should be brought to bear for it and not hide behind a keyboard or smart phone and make scurrilous comments about candidates. People try to do their best for the communities they represent and it is wrong that people are allowed to do what they do,” said Cllr Flynn.
Cllr Damien Ryan echoed their sentiments and suggested that a letter be sent to the Department of Justice on behalf of Mayo County Council calling for tougher guidelines to be introduced regarding online abuse.
“If I say something out of character I leave myself open to litigation but there is too much relaxation and not enough guidelines in the operation of social media. It needs to be a priority for the new national government and the Department of Justice. Anyone who puts their name on a ballot paper is at the mercy of particular people who serve no purpose but to play the person and not the ball.
“The criteria around social media need to be tightened dramatically and the implications of making personalised attacks should incur a penalty. Irrespective of what candidate puts their name on the ballot paper, nobody deserves that nonsense,” he said.
His motion was fully supported with councillors saying the abuse was despicable and disgusting.
Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray said social media should not be treated any differently to any other media. He added that until litigation is taken against people making libelous comments on social media, the abuse will continue.
Meanwhile, the four Mayo candidates who were elected to Dáil Éireann following Saturday’s General Election – Michael Ring, Rose Conway-Walsh, Dara Calleary and Alan Dillon – were all congratulated by members of the council.
The returning officer Fintan Murphy, council official John Condon and the count-centre staff were also praised for the way they conducted the count.
Westport-based councillor Christy Hyland congratulated all the winning candidates, especially former Mayo footballer Alan Dillon, who he said one one of the ‘success stories of the election’.
“Let’s be honest he was kicking into the wind from the start. Even factors within his own organisation were mitigating against him, so I have to say well done to him,” he said.