Cairns says abuse won’t put her off new Dáil bid

January 30th, 2023 9:00 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

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DESPITE having experienced horrendous abuse online, a stalker turning up at her home on several occasions, and receiving a handwritten letter with sexually violent content, Cork South West TD Holly Cairns has vowed to seek re-election.

The Cork South West TD, who went public last week on the horrific ordeals she has endured since her election in 2020, said she will not be deterred by the bad behaviour of a few individuals.

The Social Democrats first-time Dáil deputy said she felt obliged to speak out after reading a national newspaper article on the horrific experiences of women in politics. 

She noticed that not one of the several women interviewed, including herself, felt safe enough to put their names to their stories. 

Deputy Cairns told The Southern Star that she felt the ‘collective silence’ would not help the situation, which could deter many other women from entering politics.

Speaking about the man who turned up at her remote home outside Skibbereen – uninvited – on several occasions, Deputy Cairns said local gardaí advised her to stop holding advertised constituency clinics.

As a result, she only meets constituents by appointment – a measure that her two male constituency colleagues – deputies Michael Collins (Ind) and Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) – do not have to observe.

‘The reality is that most public representatives get some form of abuse,’ she told The Southern Star. 

‘From talking to other politicians, it is clear that while it impacts both men and women, neither of us want to discuss it openly for fear of appearing weak. There is also a worrying sexual element in much of the abuse faced by women in the public eye. I have received lewd and disgusting letters, messages and voice notes, and this behaviour is absolutely unacceptable – it’s criminal in some cases.’

One of the letters she received – seen by The Southern Star and printed in a redacted version in this week’s paper – is shocking in the vulgarity and sexual content.

It is so graphic in content, with the letter writer describing in great detail what they would like to do to her, that most of it could not be published.

‘The vast majority of people, including those who disagree with me, are respectful, but there is a minority who are out to cause harm.

‘I was honoured to be elected to represent the people of Cork South West and I want to focus on doing that job to the best of my abilities, not worried about a few individuals. I am more determined than ever to be a strong voice for west Cork in the Dáil.’

In her first newspaper interview since revealing the true extent of the abuse, the West Cork TD says she refuses to be put off by the behaviour of a few bad people. But she is concerned that if the issue is not debated in public, and something is not done, it will put good people off going into politics.

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