Mayor of Athlone Aengus O'Rourke has send a message of solidarity to Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard, who has been subjected to abuse and threats, including a threat to burn his family home. Mayor O'Rourke revealed this week that he has also received threats as a result of his public role.
"I was in touch with the Mayor of Galway this week assuring him of my support and good wishes in this very difficult time for him and for his family," Mayor O'Rourke said. "Cllr Cubbard has endured a torrid time of late involving threats to him personally and to his family. He has also endured an onslaught of hate speech and personal abuse across social media platforms."
Mayor Cubbard returned to his duties this week after taking time out from his role as a result of the abuse.
"Nobody should be subjected to the kind of vile, threatening abuse that Cllr Cubbard has endured," Mayor O'Rourke added. "No public representative, elected by the people, should be treated in this manner. People in public life work extremely hard and they should be supported in the work they do, not bullied and abused in the way that Mike Cubbard was.
"I too have received numerous personal threats over the years; to my face, in writing, on social media and notes left on my car," he revealed. "Some people think that once you are elected to public office that you are fair game for abuse, hate speech and intimidation. Over the years I have learned to deal reasonably well with these attacks, and while I don't think too much about the impact these attacks are having on me personally, I do worry a lot about how they might be impacting my family and my children in particular. And I am sure Cllr Cubbard has similar concerns regarding his own family."
Cllr O'Rourke was also concerned that the increasingly common occurrence of online abuse will discourage people from entering politics.
"What hope have we got of attracting new people into politics when this kind of treatment awaits us?" he said. "And particularly local politics. You have to really want to do the job of a councillor. Make no mistake about it, in 2021 it is a full time job, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with an annual salary of €17,800. In my view, if things don't change, the time will come when nobody will want to do it. Mayor Mike Cubbard is an upstanding, honourable, hard working public representative, doing a great job for the people of Galway. As Mayor of Athlone I stand in solidarity with him."