Belfast Telegraph

Vicious trolls target Belfast girl (9) on animal charity's Facebook page

By Brett Campbell

A Belfast mum was reduced to tears after her nine-year-old daughter became the target of vile online abuse stirred up by a controversial animal charity.

Linda McGonigle (37) was left distraught on Saturday after reading comments on Animal Heaven Animal Rescue (AHAR) social media account calling for her precious little girl to be drowned.

"It was awful. I was so upset that my boss was going to send me home," the hairdresser said.

"I just cried and kept thinking; is this meant to be a group of animal lovers?

"They were out for blood."

Passionate animal lover Macy McGonigle commented on Facebook appeals made by the Co Kerry-based charity seeking to help rescue animals and falsely claimed to have donated money.

But her mum said there is no excuse for the vilification that followed.

"It was just naivety. I think she thought that by saying it, it would help," Linda explained.

"I was so shocked at how the animal sanctuary treated the situation. It was obvious from her language and her profile photo that she was only a child."

AHAR named and shamed the P5 pupil in an online rant which read: "Shame on you, you are not an animal lover."

In abuse aimed directly at the little girl, one user wrote "drown the bitch" after telling her to "rot in hell".

Others flocked to the post to ridicule and demonise the youngster before it was eventually deleted, but not before AHAR agreed with one commentator who wrote: "Some people are a waste of blood and organs."

In a shocking response, the charity wrote: "I like your comment very much, I must remember it."

Many people were quick to condemn the hate-filled comments, but others insisted they didn't care what age she was.

One woman branded her a "nasty little kid who needs to learn the consequences of her actions" as other users expressed horror at how she was being treated.

One regular donor warned she would never make a contribution again if they "continued to allow a child to be abused".

It was Charmayne Gourley from PetMinderNI who contacted Linda to warn that her daughter had become the target of shocking abuse.

"I'm so glad she did, but if Charmayne was able to quickly work out that Macy was only nine years old and contact me, then the charity should have been able to do the same," she said.

"One of the people who was commenting is a primary school teacher. I still can't believe it."

Mrs McGonigle, who admitted having concerns about Macy being too young for Facebook, has now deleted her account.

"I thought she was OK on it, but I have now realised that you can't control what other people do," she said.

Macy is unaware of the abuse which her mum described as "inexcusable".

"The charity weren't professional at all and have not replied to me since I contacted them," she said.

The charity did not respond to requests for comment when contacted by this newspaper.

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