Michelle Gildernew living in terror after death threats
Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew has revealed that she has received several chilling death threats in the last 12 months — including a sinister incident when her four-year-old son picked up the phone to a man claiming he had his mother and he was going to kill her.
In an emotional interview, the politician and mother-of-three revealed the personal pain she has been keeping secret.
“I’ve had a number of death threats; I’m getting them all the time. The calls are mostly to my father, they can be really serious and I know I’m not being told the half of it.
“I haven’t talked about it much, only the people close to me know,” she said.
The last year has been an unsettling time for the Gildernew family, particularly since the first terrifying call.
“The first threat scared the life out of my father and my mother. The man on the other end asked him if he was Michelle Gildernew’s father. He said he was. The man said: ‘We have Michelle and we have a Kalashnikov to her head and we’re going to shoot her.’ Daddy panicked. Then he couldn’t get hold of me.”
For 20 frantic minutes Ms Gildernew’s father searched for his daughter. She was in a meeting in Belfast and was unaware of the panic outside. When he eventually realised his daughter was safe and sound, fear set in again.
“My sister looks a lot like me so daddy thought if they hadn’t got me then maybe they got her instead. Thankfully we got hold of her and she was OK too,” she said.
But two days later another call was made and it was getting more serious.
“In the next threat he said to my father: ‘We have a machete to Michelle’s head and we’re going to cut her head off.’”
The caller also stated that he intended to sexually assault the MP.
“That was bad, but the whole thing is difficult for my parents, you know. I think I’m being protected by a lot of it.
“I was up at my father’s house recently and he just happened to say something about it. He’s still getting calls. He got six calls in one hour one morning.
“Initially they were calling themselves the Orange Volunteers. I go past signs on the way home with OV painted on them, so it really brings it home,” she said in the interview with the Impartial Reporter.
And just a couple of months ago the threats took a more sinister twist.
Ms Gildernew said: “It was during the Cavan v Fermanagh game. I was at that match and mummy and daddy were minding my children.
“About nine o’clock the phone rang, it was an international call so daddy said: ‘That’s probably your mother’ — because I’d usually talk to them before bed — ‘why don’t you talk to her.’ So Eunan picks up the phone. He stands for a minute saying nothing and puts the phone down.
“Daddy asks him who it was. Eunan says: ‘It’s a man, says he’s got Michelle Gildernew and he’s going to kill her. Eunan was four years old. I was furious that anyone would do that to a child.”
Ms Gildernew phoned the police the next morning to inform them of how serious the situation was getting. “I am conscious of the risks that go with my job but it’s very different when it affects your children.
“It makes it more difficult to cope with.”
The MP said she has been receiving death threats since she was a teenager.
“The worst death threat ever was so serious that Hugh Orde was prepared to come to my house to tell me about it.
“That was when I was breast-feeding Emmet so I had to put the tin hat on bringing him with me to work. I am bitter about that one.
“A few weeks before that I had met Bill Clinton in Enniskillen and I have a great photograph of Bill holding my baby, but within weeks he was left at home because I couldn’t risk bringing him in the car knowing that we could have been the target of an ambush,” she recalled.
It is understood the PSNI are currently investigating the threats made against Ms Gildernew.