Cross-party support for Nichola Mallon after online attacks because she brought baby to meeting
An SDLP MLA who was trolled for taking her seven-month-old son to a meeting with the Secretary of State has received cross-party support.
A photograph posted on Twitter of North Belfast politician and mum-of-three Nichola Mallon arriving at Hillsborough Castle ahead of a meeting with Julian Smith was met with comments accusing her of being unprofessional for bringing her child to work.
It led to support from politicians from other parties, including Alliance MEP Naomi Long and DUP MLA Carla Lockhart.
In one astonishing attack, a Twitter user called Richard said: "Sorry, she is being paid to represent us as an MLA, how can she conduct herself properly if she has a hungry infant in tow. Stop acting like a bimbo and grow up!"
Another Twitter user called Mickmac said: "Anyone be it male or female who takes a child into the workplace environment are totally unprofessional. Not only is the person taking the child into the workplace distracted but so are all your colleagues and we'll not get started on all the health and safety issues."
He later added: "Very unprofessional."
Another Twitter account under the name of Peter said: "Absolutely right. There is no way that someone can give 100% to their job when looking after a baby". While Veritas said: "Totally agree. What if she has triplets? Are we all supposed to fund her domestic arrangements? If she wants the child, let her pay for its childcare but the workplace isn't an alternative childcare centre."
However, Ms Mallon has been inundated with support.
Party leader Colum Eastwood said: "Nichola is one of the most courageous, compassionate public representatives on these islands.
"She's been the subject of vile abuse and death threats but it couldn't stop her speaking truth to power."
Ms Long said: "I reckon Nichola Mallon has contributed more of value to Northern Ireland whilst juggling her role as a busy MLA with being a great mum in one day than you have in a lifetime. Sit down."
She added: "At a time when we are encouraging young women to get involved in politics, the kind of misogynistic trolling which Nichola received online is evidence of the unfair challenges women still face in such roles."
Upper Bann MLA Carla Lockhart, mum to five-month-old Charlie, branded the remarks "disgusting".
She said: "People have no idea what it is like to be in politics and have a little baby.
"Charlie comes to meetings with me and well dare anyone complain. If you were in a normal job you would still be off on maternity leave."
Siobhan O'Neill, a mental health professor at Ulster University, said: "It makes me so mad. Some people have no idea how damn hard it is to juggle work and parenthood. Nichola Mallon deserves a medal. Her contribution is immense."
Ms Mallon, who champions better childcare provision, described the comments made by Richard as "the kind of misogynistic abuse women in politics have to put up with".