A Fine Gael TD has said a man’s decision to send her sexually explicit videos meant she was filled with a “cold sense of dread” and concerns for her safety during the 2020 election campaign.
Jennifer Carroll MacNeill took to the stand to read her victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing of 43-year-old Gerard Culhane, who sent her three sexually explicit videos and messages in the early months of 2020.
Culhane (43) of Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing the woman at unknown places within the State on dates between January 13th, 2020 and March 26th, 2020. He has no previous convictions.
The court heard that during that time, Culhane sent the TD 13 messages, including three sexually explicit videos, which he later admitted to gardaí he had downloaded from a pornographic website.
Ms Carroll MacNeill said she was in middle of a general election at the time and the harassment from Culhane was “extremely difficult to deal with”.
“I do not wish to be here,” the deputy said, adding that “with every fibre of my being” she did not wish to waste the time of the court, gardaí or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
However, she said because Culhane sent her “unsolicited images...we all have to be here”.
“Because some man thought it was ok to invade my life and my mind and my sense of security because of whatever twisted purpose he got out of it, I have to use my time to pursue it,” she added.
“I do not choose to be sexualised in this way, to be in media articles with sexual content. But because some man decided to send me sexually explicit videos, it is there forever more for everyone to see. All of this is without my consent,” Ms Carroll MacNeill said.
She said didn’t wish to be “a victim”.
“I am a private person and I just don’t like it,” the TD said, before adding she was “keen to downplay” the case.
She said she was worried for her safety at the time because she was in the middle of a general election, during which time the main objective is to go out and meet as many members of the general public as possible.
She said she got an awful fright when she received the messages and did not want to worry about her safety at the time. “We all needed to get on with the job,” she said.
Ms Carroll MacNeill said she was on high-alert and her team and close family were more protective of her.
“No one should have to get unsolicited sexual content. It greatly impacted me in the process of trying to become an elected representative,” she continued.
“When you are running an election, the key objective is to physically meet people. I was afraid for the first time.”
The TD said she felt did not know where the threat was, or what the nature of it was, adding that she had “a cold sense of dread” and spoke of a reluctance to smile, put out her hand and engage.
"In my mind, whether rationally or not, this person, whoever they were, now had every opportunity to simply walk up and see me up close and be near me, and this terrified me.
"I just didn't know where it would go and I thought, I'm not putting up with this,” she continued.
Ms Carroll MacNeill said the impact of Culhane sending her these messages had a wider effect on her family, her husband, parents and sister.
Judge Patricia Ryan adjourned the case for finalisation to October 21st after acknowledging that a previously ordered Probation Report had not been prepared for the hearing.
She said she did not want to adjourn the matter but was reluctant to finalise the case without that report.
Culhane was remanded on continuing bail until October.