Ruth Dudley Edwards: Sinn Fein loves to smear Catholics who object to them
I try to understand the reason for the hatred and viciousness I come across on social media from militant Irish republicans.
I suppose we should be grateful that these days they choose to abuse for Ireland rather than kill for it.
The world is full of sad and malevolent people, otherwise known as trolls, to whom the internet is a devil-given opportunity to try to make people feel bad by hurling insults.
Many of them are misogynists who particularly enjoy targeting women, particularly those they consider uppity, by ridiculing their looks and calling them gross names.
And then there are those - not all of whom hide behind anonymity - who think harassment is a legitimate response to criticisms of the ideology to which they adhere blindly.
Many of them also go in for crude abuse, but being true believers, they think it's justified because they're doing it for a higher cause.
In my case, apart from Irish republicans, abusive critics have mainly been Scottish Nationalists (otherwise known as cybernats) who were choleric because I thought independence would be bad for these islands, and those who regard rational criticism of left-wing dogma as intolerable.
As Senator Mairia Cahill observed pithily a few days ago in the middle of a controversy about abusive tweets levelled at Ann Travers by Catherine Kelly of the US Friends of Sinn Fein: "Trolls who use a public interest excuse to just plain harass people are possibly worse than those who do it for kicks."
Which, indeed, was why Mairia and I and many others have been angry about the recent sneering tweets about Ann from Ms Kelly and her acolytes.
Now, why would Sinn Feiners hate Ann Travers?
It was the IRA who, in 1984, in an attempt to assassinate her father for the crime of being a magistrate, murdered his daughter, Ann's sister, Mary.
Danny Morrison, these days an enthusiastic Republican tweeter, said at the time that although Mary's death was "tragic and regrettable", the attack on her father was "directly related to the political situation in Ireland".
Ann's offence was to protest in 2011 when Mary McArdle, the only person convicted for involvement in Mary's murder, was appointed a special political adviser (Spad) to Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin.
As a result of Ann's courage and her patient work with sympathetic politicians, including the TUV's Jim Allister, anyone with a serious conviction is now barred from being a Spad.
That the Travers family was Catholic had made her father a particularly desirable target for the tribal IRA. Similarly, that Ann was prepared to co-operate with unionist politicians drove republicans wild.
Twitter abuse included statements that Ann's father deserved to be shot because he was a "Cog in an Orange state."
She was denounced as a "bigot" for asking questions about Sinn Fein and the IRA, and described by a Sinn Fein politician as a "celebrity victim".
The latest attacks on Ann have been discussed by others in this paper and other parts of the Northern Ireland media and have caused Sinn Fein some embarrassment.
In consequence, after some unconvincing self-justification, Ms Kelly appears to have disappeared from Twitter, at least for the moment.
What is important to understand is that this venom is inspired firstly, by repressed guilt, secondly, because Ann refuses to observe tribal boundaries, and thirdly, because she has had the effrontery to criticise the Republican leadership.
It is for those same reasons that republicans so hate Mairia Cahill.
Similarly, the most vicious abuse I've had from republicans is because I come from a Dublin Catholic nationalist background, yet have had the temerity to make friends with unionists and, indeed, with members of the Orange Order, instead of staying in my tribal box.
I'm sorry for ideologues with minds so closed they become inflamed with hate for those who challenge them.
As WB Yeats, once a romantic Irish nationalist, observed after years of seeing the consequences of violence: "I have learned to know that nothing great comes out of hatred and bitterness."
- My book on Easter 1916, The Seven: the Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, will be published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.