Limerick politician highlights “pervasive and consistent misogyny” after receiving series of messages from male

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Cllr Elisa O'Donovan, Social Democrats. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

A Limerick politician has said she feels her political speech is being suppressed by “pervasive and consistent” “misogyny” and that “ignoring it is not working for me anymore”.

Independent Councillor Elisa O’Donovan who was first elected to Limerick City and County Council in 2019 as a Social Democrats candidate, before leaving the party in 2020, highlighted how she had received a series of texts from an unidentified male, after she had appeared in a RTE News report, on Sunday.

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“Yesterday I appeared on the news for less than 15 seconds. This “irritated” a man so much that he contacted me on Facebook,” Cllr O’Donovan said.

She said that when she “blocked” the man from contacting her through Facebook, she had to “block” on two further occasions after he contacted her, on the WhatsApp messenger service, and again via text message.

Cllr O’Donovan said that an RTE journalist had contacted her the previous week about an unrelated news story, but she said she “didn’t respond (because) I knew this is the response I would get”.

“For the last year I’ve done everything I can to shrink myself as a politician. I am no longer a party leader in Limerick. I don’t put in any press releases to media. I go to Council and do my work for constituents.”

“The misogyny towards me is so pervasive and consistent,” Cllr O’Donovan stated in a post on her Twitter account.

“This low value speech on me personally is suppressing my political speech, I am calling it out this year and highlighting it; Ignoring it is not working for me anymore,” she added.

When contacted for comment, Cllr O’Donovan said she was happy for her remarks to be highlighted in the media, but that she did not want to add any further comment at this time.

Cllr O’Donovan received support from colleagues across political parties, including from former Mayor of Limerick, Fianna Fáil Cllr James Collins, who said he too had “reduced my social media interaction for the same reasons”.

“No wonder it is so difficult to encourage people to enter and remain involved in politics,” Cllr Collins added.

However, some appeared to disagree with the two elected representatives.

Responding to both Cllr O’Donovan and Cllr Collins, @davydublin47 tweeted: “James, it’s not that difficult at all to get people involved in politics so stop with the pity party, there was always odd balls around long before the internet, Use the block button.”

Edward Donovan using the Twitter handle @CadoudalChouan replied to Cllr Collins: “Many of the women blame negative comments on misogyny. Yet you too receive negative comments. So it is not only misogyny.”

Social Democrat TD, Holly Cairns, tweeted her support for her former party colleague, Cllr O’Donovan, tweeting: “Your political speech is so important to so many people, Elisa, we’re all behind you.”

Sinn Fein TD for Galway West/South Mayor, Mairead Farrell, also offered her support, tweeting: “Really sorry to hear that, solidarity.”

Labour councillor Elena Secas described it as “totally unacceptable” and tweeted Cllr O’Donovan, “stay strong, you are a great, very hard working councillor”.

In response to Cllr O’Donovan’s comments, @Sarahw53899906 tweeted: “Every politician needs to call this out for what it is, only through continually highlighting can we keep this up for discussion and challenge it. Otherwise we can’t hope for higher female representation.”

Cllr O’Donovan also posted a series of screenshots of a message conversation between her and the male in which she told him “don’t ever contact me again”.

Earlier a message sent to Cllr O’Donovan, read: “U couldn’t have come across any more irritating on rte news if u tried. Well done.”, to which Cllr O’Donovan replied, “Thanks. Being irritating to anonymous men on the internet is my favourite hobby.”

Another message from the same sender read: “I’m not the one putting myself in the public eye. Maybe u need to have a good long look at urself.”

Cllr O’Donovan, who also works as a Speech and Language Therapist, replied: “You are incredibly rude and I am blocking you. Take a good long hard look at yourself. I’m a political representative not a celebrity.”

Cllr O’Donovan also posted messages sen to her which read, “Ur a fool…It’s great u can block people on feb. It’s a lot harder to stop being an idiot. U should audition for the next GoMo add…Don’t work to hard this coming week…Ya might faint…Really, Find something ur good at.”

The sender later messages Councillor O’Donovan: “Goodnight. U just annoyed earlier. I apologise.”

Cllr O’Donovan said she had previously “reported” other online messages sent to her “but I won’t this time“.
“Honestly I’d be at Henry Street (Garda Station) everyday if I had to report all the harassment I get online.”
“It’s a culture change we need really,” she added.
Cllr O’Donovan said she has experienced misogyny from other politicians: “Yes, it’s endemic in most political parties. It’s why I left party politics. It’s toxic towards women.”