SF ‘digital army’ campaign row

Irish senator M�ir�a Cahill has lodged a formal complaint with Sinn Fein
Irish senator M�ir�a Cahill has lodged a formal complaint with Sinn Fein

Máiría Cahill has slammed Sinn Fein’s recruitment of “thousands” of online activists – noting that she has been attacked daily online since a public row with the party over sexual abuse in 2014.

Ms Cahill, whose great uncle Joe Cahill helped create PIRA, made headlines in 2014 when she accused the IRA of covering up sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of one of its members.

She was later voted into the upper house of Dublin’s parliament where she vowed to work for victims of abuse.

The Irish senator has now slammed an advert on Sinn Fein’s website which says it has already recruited “thousands” of people to fight on its behalf on social media.

The website says: “Never before has there been so many ways that you can help influence and make change happen through this global online community we live in.

“Thousands of people from every walk of life have already signed up from across Ireland and beyond to become online supporters for Sinn Fein.

“We are asking you to take the step today to become a Sinn Fein online supporter and join our campaign to reshape politics in Ireland and in doing so usher in an era of radical change that puts the interest of our citizens at the heart of all we do.”

But Ms Cahill told the News Letter there were many instances of republicans “circling the wagons and abusing people through the use of social media”.

She said: “I myself have been subjected to attacks on a daily basis, in a clearly orchestrated effort to frighten off other victims in coming forward to speak about their abuse. The message is clear: ‘Open your mouth and we will attack you; keep your mouth shut or this is the collective treatment you will receive’.”

The senator said she lodged a formal complaint with Sinn Fein that thousands of party supporters are engaging in such behaviour.

She added that Sinn Fein representatives Phil Flanagan and Francie Molloy were forced to publicly apologise to herself and Co Louth man Paudie McGahon respectively after tweets about their claims to have been sexually abused by IRA members.

“And Sinn Fein councillor JJ Magee still stands by his ‘celebrity victim’ tweet regarding Ann Travers,” she added.

“So, it is clear Sinn Fein are fully aware of this insidious behaviour. The party has not publicly condemned it once, despite being asked to do so in both the Dail and the Assembly. For them to now advertise for an effective online army is an absolute joke.” A Sinn Féin spokesman said its online recruitment drive reflects the “continuing success of Sinn Féin across the island”.

He added: “With 23 Teachtaí Dála [TDs] in the recent elections to Dáil Éireann and a possible seven Seanadóirí [senators] doubling the representation in the Oireachtas, Sinn Féin support continues to grow as an ever increasing amount of people are attracted to our progressive policies and our all-Ireland agenda for change.

“We aim to improve on this in the forthcoming Assembly elections and our online strategy to build support will be a central tool in all of this. The online recruitment drive reflects the continuing success of Sinn Féin across the island.”

The DUP has successfully recruited online supporters since 2011.

The UUP and SDLP have not commented. Alliance does not recruit such volunteers.