When Enda Kenny stood up in the Dail yesterday and outlined the amount of bile and hate that is coming his way courtesy of his stance on the abortion legislation, he was reflecting a reality that ensures abuse is now a new form of discourse, being seen instead as a quicker way of getting your point across than searching and struggling manfully for a burst of eloquence that may never arrive.
For having taken the stance he has on a controversial topic such as abortion, he ought not to be surprised that abuse will come his way. A day earlier, the Seanad which we we have been told for a week is a place for greater reflection than the Dail, was host to another burst of unparliamentary language and detail most unbecoming to its chambers when amember called the Taoiseach’ a clown’ who had ‘urinated’ on the institution (Now that would be a circus act to see ). An hour after Mr Kenny’s protestations yesterday, Galway senator Ronan Mullen outlined and circulated an example of the sort of abuse that he gets for taking the stance that he does on a variety of issues.
The letter he circulated to the media is too crude to be published even on my little corner of the page, but it does illustrate the sort of altered thinking that directs bile and hatred at people for choosing to believe in what they believe. He mentioned that he has been insulted and attacked on the streets for his opinions.
However, he feels that this should not be brought into this debate, because it is part and parcel of being a participant in public life.
“The Taoiseach has on several occasions played the victim around nasty messages of an anti-abortion nature that he tells us he has received. But everyone gets this kind of stuff. I was called a 'prick' the other day in the street because of my stance,” he said, adding that this is just a spin tactic designed to distract people from the reality of the Government's abortion legislation proposal.
In a society where it is a now possible to interact with even the most distant celebrity and to do so hiding behind a veil of anonymity, abuse has become the norm rather than the exception. Fewer people are willing to engage in reasoned discussion when they can make their opinions felt more forcefully with a burst of expletives.
For messrs Kenny and Mullen, abuse is part of the game they have opted to take part in, but it ought not be.
I have a guy who claims he is Jesus, who despite being the Son of God, monthly threatens to kill me, and who emails and who sends me his bank account details into which he would like me to deposit large wads of cash. These, I am tempted to pass on to some nice West African royalty in my spam boxes who make a habit of collecting such account details, in exchange for transferring millions of dollars into my own account.
This current debate always threatened to descend into a dirty war with no holds barred. The growth of technology and the strengthening of positions on all sides will ensure that this will run and run and run.
For more of me in 140-word snatches on a variety of topics, follow me on twitter at @declanvarley.