Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Second Stage


10:00 am

Mary Seery Kearney (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Yes, it is now. It was, and I am proud to participate in the passing of this Bill by the House. It is extraordinary that we live in an age in which the threat of the publication of an image and the harassment of individuals can happen online in the manner in which it does. It is appalling, and I am delighted that it will quickly become a criminal offence. It is long overdue.

I have great respect for Safe Ireland and all the other NGOs that contributed and have spoken on it, as well as their email to us urging us to get on with getting the legislation onto the Statute Book and into effect as quickly as possible. I am glad that consent is irrelevant in the context of this Bill. That was extremely important. The phenomenon of the use of social media is quite extraordinary. I pay tribute to Professor Mary Aiken who published a book, The Cyber Effect, in which she deals with what happens in our psychology whereby things we would never say to somebody in person we would say online or over social media. She explains that phenomenon very well. It is amazing.

In the abuse I have received people refer to me in the most extraordinary and certainly unparliamentary language. They will do that in a Facebook post in between celebrating a daughter's birthday and something else for another family member. They can do it without considering that perhaps the child may grow up to be a Member of the Oireachtas and be subjected to similar abuse. Hopefully, as a consequence of this Bill, the child will not. It is important that the discourse online is safe, and that it is a place where we can all engage in a positive and constructive manner with our freedom of speech.


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