A LIMERICK politician has said a “cultural change” is needed in Irish politics and society to stamp out “misogyny”.
Independent Councillor, Elisa O’Donovan, who was elected to Limerick City and County Council in 2019, said she has experienced misogyny from other politicians as well as members of the public.
“Yes, it’s endemic in most political parties, it’s why I left party politics, it’s toxic towards women,” Cllr O’Donovan said.
“It’s a culture change we need really,” she added.
Cllr O’Donovan was speaking after she she said she “blocked” a man from contacting her on social media and text messages, after she had appeared on a RTE news report, last Sunday.
“Yesterday I appeared on the news for less than 15 seconds. This “irritated” a man so much that he contacted me on Facebook, I blocked. Then on WhatsApp, I blocked and then by text message, I blocked.”
“When @HalloranCathy (RTE Mid Western Correspondent) contacted me last week I didn’t respond to her. 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.”
Cllr O’Donovan, a former member of the Social Democrats, complained that “the misogyny towards me is so pervasive and consistent”.
“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.”
Speaking after posting her comments online, Cllr O’Donovan said she had previously “reported” to gardai previous incidents of receiving online messages, “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,” she added.
Cllr O’Donovan has 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.
Social Democrat TD, Holly Cairns, told Cllr O’Donovan in a tweet: “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, and tweeted: “Really sorry to hear that, solidarity.”
Limerick Labour councillor Elena Secas described it as “totally unacceptable” and told Cllr O’Donovan to “stay strong, you are a great, very hard working councillor”.
@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.”
Responding to 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 @CadoudalChouan told Cllr Collins: “Many of the women blame negative comments on misogyny. Yet you too receive negative comments. So it is not only misogyny.”
Cllr O’Donovan posted a series of screenshots of a text conversation between her and a 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 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 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.”