Belfast Telegraph

Online trolls won't silence me, says DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly

By Donna Deeney

A DUP politician has said receiving hundreds of abusive comments on her Twitter account is typical of what she faces on a daily basis.

South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly has revealed that much of the abuse she receives from online trolls is because she is the daughter of Noel Little - who was convicted in Paris more than 20 years ago for his part in a loyalist gunrunning plot.

Describing the abuse as "shameful and disgusting", the unionist politician said the "scourge of online bullying of women in public life" must be tackled.

Mrs Little-Pengelly addressed an international conference on preventing violence towards female politicians held in London on Monday.

She said: "I had the privilege of making the closing remarks at the International Conference on Stopping Violence towards Women in Politics. An incredible group of women from all over the world - many experiencing physical violence and threats, all experiencing attacks and sexism in words, trolling and online abuse.

"Being in politics is an incredible role, I want more women to do it.

"To encourage this, we must do all we can to tackle hate including the scourge of online bullying of women in public life."

Mrs Little-Pengelly expanded on the kind of abuse she is exposed to on social media, but she vowed not to be silenced by it.

She posted on her Twitter account: "Online abuse can take many forms. The pattern is clear.

"Trolls and abusers pick on a characteristic or aspect of the person targeted, usually something completely outside their control - gender, race, disability, attractiveness or lack thereof, weight and such.

"Then hundreds of people harass that person relentlessly about that issue to attack, bring down and close down that person's voice.

"In my case I am constantly abused and attacked on almost everything I do or say daily due to alleged actions attributed to my father.

"I am being attacked for something that is alleged, that I did not do, that I had no part of and that I was in no way responsible for.

"In fact, I was seven years old at the time of the alleged actions.

"Raising this issue constantly with allegation of 'hypocrisy' against me has absolutely no relevance.

"Some days I get hundreds of these comments, most days I get at least scores of them. This behaviour, including by many who should know better, is shameful and disgusting abuse.

"My voice will not be shut down."

She is not the only female politician who spoke out against their experience of online trolls.

Sinn Fein MLA for West Tyrone, Michaela Boyle, spoke to Amnesty International about how she too is abused on social media because of a physical disability.

She said:"Life in the public eye often leaves you open to abuse and personal comments.

"Unfortunately women also seem to be targeted specifically about the way we look and what we wear. More needs to be done to tackle this.

"I have a physical disability that has often been commented on about how I should get that disability 'fixed'.

"That to me is derogatory. I am comfortable in my own skin."

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