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Abuse and harassment of Irish politicians commonplace, new study reports

Posted 16 May, 2024

Almost all Irish politicians and most of their staff have experience some form of threat, harassment, or violence, according to a new UCD survey.

(opens in a new window)A report by the UCD Centre for Digital Policy found some 94% of politicians and 72% of political staff encountered such abuse during the course of their work.

The biggest issue linked to receiving abuse was immigration, followed by the rights of women, housing and homelessness, and LGBTQ+ issues.

For specific issues related to the abuse, TDs and Senators reported: 

  • Immigration (67%)
  • Women’s Rights (47%)
  • Housing/homelessness (40%)
  • LGBTQ+ issues (40%)

While political staff reported:

  • Immigration (46%)
  • Housing/homelessness (40%)
  • Women’s Rights (27%)
  • LGBTQ+ issues (25%)

(opens in a new window)The UCD report found that abuse had “strong chilling effects” with 45% of Oireachtas members saying they avoided engaging with a specific policy area due to harassment.

Some 89% of TDs and senators, and near three-quarters of their staff, said they had felt “anxious and afraid” over the abuse.

Significant rates of harassment were related to social media, with 73% of the Oireachtas members experiencing abuse on social media frequently.

A third said they had been abused when socialising in a personal capacity or at social events as politicians.

Almost 28% of political staff reported receiving abuse at constituency offices, and 40% said it had occurred while canvassing.

Overall, female members of the Oireachtas were significantly more likely to experience harassment online and be targeted by gendered abuse, such as slurs, threats of sexual violence, sexual harassment, and comments on their physical appearance.

The survey, distributed to all 220 Oireachtas members and all 580 political staff, was commissioned by the Task Force on Safe Participation in Public Life and was published in conjunction with a report detailing the group’s proposes to improve the safety of public representatives amongst growing abuse in political life.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations

To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: newsdesk@ucd.ie