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Social media abuse is killing politics – Ring

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LEGISLATION NEEDED Michael Ring feels action needs to be taken to stop online abuse. Pic: Michael Mc Laughlin

Westport TD admits he has considered legal action over abuse

Edwin McGreal

Fewer and fewer people will be interested in putting their names forward for public office due to the amount of abuse politicians receive on social media.
That’s according to Mayo TD and former minister Michael Ring, who says he is not sure if he would encourage any of his family to go into politics.
“If we don’t do something about Facebook and social media in general and don’t do something to control the hysterical stuff that’s put on that, you won’t have anybody in politics or public life. The kind of stuff people puts up about others on that … It has to be controlled. The Mayo News is regulated, the local and national papers are regulated, we have a regulated media and we need them but what we don’t need is unregulated media and that’s what Facebook is. It is unregulated, uncontrolled and it is causing trouble not just in Ireland but all over the world,” he told The Mayo News.
“If you asked me the question, the one thing that is affecting politics and politicians right now is the uncontrolled media of Facebook and everything else,” he added.
A TD since 1994, Michael Ring said he has witnessed a huge change in the last ten years in terms of the advent of social media commentary, criticism and abuse. He said it has taken its toll on many politicians.
“There’s no question about it, everybody in the Dáil is talking about it. The turnaround of politicians over the last few years is frightening,” he said.
He said he has considered legal action over some abuse he has received and is currently contemplating taking action in one particular instance. He says he is not sure if he would recommend any of his family getting involved in politics.
“The way politics is at the moment, I’d have to talk to them to say ‘do you really know what you’re doing’? That’s the truth. If something is not done with social media and something is not done … At the end of the day politicians are not perfect. We are human beings. We have the same failings as everybody else. Our families … the kinda stuff that is written about us, sometimes lies. You have to go down to the Four Goldmines (Four Courts) to defend it and that will cost you €100,000. That’s not on either.”
As for his own future, he said he is relieved to be free from a ministry at present but is not ruling out a return.
“I’m busy as a TD but there’s no doubt that if I didn’t stop … nine and a quarter years is a long time. We went through very difficult times from the whole crisis. You never say never in politics. A week is a long time in politics, 24 hours is a long time in politics now. You never know what is going to happen but I think I needed the rest for my own health,” he said.
He said he intends to remain a TD for as long as his health allows.
“What else would I do? I was in my office this morning and I had a house full of clinics. I like it. I know I get annoyed at times and we all get frustrated but in saying that there’s something about it and the vast majority of people are decent,” he said.