Anne Rabbitte considered political future after excrement thrown at her

Junior minister says she questioned ‘why I do this’ for first time in career as TD

Junior minister Anne Rabbitte has said she was “mortified beyond belief” and wished “the ground could open and swallow me” after bags of animal excrement were thrown at her at a public meeting in Co Galway last month.

The Galway East TD said there were “a couple of moments” on the night the bags of excrement were thrown at her when “I queried myself as to why I do this”.

“That’s the first time ever in my political career I would have doubted myself,” she said.

Ms Rabbitte, the Minister of State at the Department of Health, and Fine Gael TD Ciaran Cannon, had bags of excrement thrown at them while attending a local meeting in Gort that was examining the decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant permission for an industrial biogas facility at the edge of the town.


Ms Rabbitte and Mr Cannon are both TDs for Galway East.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme on Sunday, Ms Rabbitte said she has since reduced her amount of public, TV and radio appearances following the incident and that “you’re always looking over your shoulder”.

The Fianna Fáil TD said she has continued to receive abuse and that for politicians, it is “relentless” and “never stops”.

“When men get abuse, they get abuse on facts, on the issue that’s being discussed,” she said. “I find when a female gets abused, it’s actually about their looks, their appearance, how they speak, how they conduct themselves ... it’s a different target. It’s very personal.”

Ms Rabbitte said since January she now “plans” her movements, including ringing in advance of appearances to find out where she will be sitting and the running order of an event, while previously she wouldn’t have given it “a second thought”.

“You’re always looking over your shoulder to make sure and I shouldn’t have to,” she said. “I’m in my own constituency. This happened in my own constituency, where I felt that I was among my own.”

Ms Rabbitte said she will run for election again and would recommend the career for young women but said measures had to be put in place to ensure their safety.

She said the “dynamic” had completely changed for politicians, even since she had became a TD in 2016, and that social media companies needed to do more to tackle online abuse in particular.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl is due to meet female TDs and senators this week to discuss security concerns and solutions.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times