Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew expresses solidarity with DUP's Carla Lockhart over online abuse
A Sinn Fein candidate has voiced fears for the safety of women standing for election as she expressed solidarity with a DUP candidate who was abused online.
Carla Lockhart was subjected to a torrent of abuse on social media about her appearance after she was picked to contest Upper Bann for the DUP last week.
Michelle Gildernew, who is aiming to hold Fermanagh and South Tyrone for Sinn Fein said such vitriol seemed to have become more accepted amid the Brexit debate.
Ms Gildernew reflected on the Troubles murders of Sinn Fein activists Sheena Campbell and Marie Drumm as she addressed the issue at the party's candidate launch in Belfast.
"We condemn wholeheartedly the comments that have been made, particularly on social media, on Carla Lockhart's appearance," she said.
"It's not easy to be a woman elected representative or a woman in public life and I only have to think back to women I would have looked up to, women like Moira Drumm and Sheena Campbell, who both lost their lives, women activists.
"It's not easy to put your name forward.
"I saw on TV yesterday women in London coming together to not canvas on their own, because of that fear that they have.
"You are particularly vulnerable as a public representative, there is a fear around people's safety, it's not that long since Jo Cox (Labour MP) was murdered.
"Anybody who puts their name up to go for public office deserves to be given a bit of respect but it's incredible that women in particular, there is so much focus on their appearance, not on what you do, but on what you're wearing, or how you look.
"It's wrong, it has to stop and what really worries me, and it's probably since Brexit, but there is a tolerance of hate that we wouldn't have accepted, or nobody would have accepted five years ago or three years ago that now seems to be creeping in.
"It has to stop, it has to be condemned by right thinking people. We send our solidarity to Carla and to all female representatives contesting this election."
Ms Lockhart responded to her abusers at the weekend.
She tweeted: "Whenever you attack someone on their appearance you have lost the argument already. Thank you to those who have voiced support, who can disagree on ideology but do so respectfully. #NotBowed #NotBroken #GE19"