An Irish minister has told how she has limited her public appearances following an incident in which a bag of animal excrement was thrown at her earlier this year.
inister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte and Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon had cow dung thrown at them while they attended a public meeting in Co Galway in January.
Ms Rabbitte said the incident left her querying why she was in politics.
She also spoke about the “relentless” online abuse suffered by female politicians after they make media appearances.
On that night back in January there were a couple of moments when I queried why I do thisAnne Rabbitte
Speaking about the incident to the RTE This Week programme, she said: “I was mortified beyond belief. It was, how do you react? I am a public figure, I have to behave in a particular way.
“I just wished the ground could have opened and swallowed me at that precise moment in time.
“Last Thursday was the first bit of TV I’ve done since.”
Speaking about online abuse, Ms Rabbitte said: “It is continuous, it is relentless and it is tiring.
“The criticism about how you look, your weight, how you dress, how you speak. It is never about the issue.
“When men get abuse, they get abuse on facts, I find when a female gets abuse it is about their looks, their appearance, how they speak, how they conduct themselves.”
Asked if she had curtailed public appearances since January, Ms Rabbitte said: “Absolutely. I want to focus on the job at hand.
“I don’t want to be derailed, defocused, and I want to stay clear-visioned in my thinking process of what is expected of me and so by curtailing doing public pieces.
“You are always looking over your shoulder and you shouldn’t have to.
“In the past I wouldn’t have given a second thought, but since January I plan my moves and I don’t do anything off the cuff anymore. I have reduced radio and TV as well.
“On that night back in January there were a couple of moments when I queried why I do this. That is the first time in my political career I have doubted myself.”
Labour leader Ivana Bacik is among a group of female TDs who will meet the Dail speaker this week to discuss how to protect female representatives.
She said: “I think it does illustrate very starkly the reality that is being endured by so many public representatives around the country.
“This clearly had a dreadful impact on her but this is relentless, it happens every time there is a media appearance.
“Her experience is not unique. All of us, particularly women in politics, we are subjected to this sort of online abuse.”