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Barry Walsh has quit the Fine Gael executive councilPhoto. Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie
Barry Walsh has quit the Fine Gael executive councilPhoto. Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie
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'Culture of sexism within Fine Gael'

A FORMER Fine Gael member has said a culture of sexism still exists in the party, after a member of its executive council quit over his abusive tweets directed at women.

Michelle Ní Chonaill made her claim after Barry Walsh, who is originally from Mitchelstown but now living in Dublin, resigned from his internal party post yesterday. He had come under pressure after a series of his tweets emerged, which included targeting pro-choice women, and directing the word ‘bitch’ at a number of female TDs.

However, Ms Ní Chonaill, a former member of Fine Gael and Young Fine Gael in UCC, said this type of behaviour is not isolated to just one person

“The Fine Gael standpoint that this is unacceptable behaviour is welcomed, but their position that it is isolated or one bad egg is not. Sexism is systematic, very rarely isolated and protected by pack mentality,” she said, adding that she left the party after a number of years of men telling her it was not appropriate to raise issues like abortion in certain settings.

“The root of the problem is that both male and female members fail to recognise privilege, which is apparent in a lot of their economic views, but also in their social views.

“The ‘work hard, early riser, bootstrap’ mentality is dangerous in terms of sexism as it creates the false sense to a woman that she has not succeeded or been listened to because she has not worked hard enough, failing to account for the barriers society has created for women.”

Mr Walsh stood down yesterday soon after party leader Leo Varadkar said he should resign from his post. In a statement, Mr Walsh said he had been subjected to a “trial by media” but acknowledged that his language was offensive.

“I realise that some of my remarks have caused serious offence to many people and I apologise unreservedly for that.

“I first got involved in politics because I have passionate views on many issues and have always enjoyed robust political debate.

“However, I accept that with many of these tweets I took the political jousting a step too far,” he said.

Seanad leader, Jerry Buttimer, who is also a member of the executive council, said there needs to be a discourse about how party members, as well as others, use social media.

“Some people believe they can say and do what they want on social media, but it can have a profound effect on people,” he said.

Mr Buttimer added that the party will carry out an internal investigation into Mr Walsh’s behaviour and report back to the executive council.