Green TD Grovels: Sorry for being mean in a Whatsapp group

In all seriousness, and, accepting that there is much competition for the accolade, this might be the stupidest story of the year. Imagine being the Garda who had to take the call from an adult complaining that other adults were mean about her in a whatsapp group:

A prominent Green Party TD and Oireachtas committee chairman has been embroiled in a row over a sickening series of slurs against women.

Brian Leddin, chair of the powerful Oireachtas Environment and Climate Action Committee, apologised on Saturday night for some comments he made in a WhatsApp group he set up in 2017….

Other messages contained abuse and threatening comments about Limerick-based councillor Elisa O’Donovan. In one message a member of the group said Cllr O’Donovan ‘must be ended’ and in another, a female member also called Cllr O’Donovan a ‘c***’….

….Mr Leddin did not make or comment on any of the abusive or threatening messages made about Ms O’Donovan in the group. But on another occasion in the group, he described the councillor as ‘unhinged’, saying ‘she craves fame’…..

…..Cllr O’Donovan also made a formal complaint to gardaí. ‘I just felt like I wanted to keep myself safe,’ she said. ‘One thing that I’ve learnt is that if you feel like you are in any way unsafe, you’re being harassed, then it’s very, very important to notify the guards so they know what’s going on… it’s difficult for the guards but at least they are aware what’s going on and they can keep a check on it.’

The full story, at the link above, is highly sensationalised, but it does appear that some of the comments made about Cllr O’Donovan and another, unnamed woman, were unpleasant. They include name-calling and a suggestion that somebody be “ended”. In a political context, chances are that this refers to ending a political career, but in the hands of an excitable journalist and an ambitious politician, this has now been escalated to a matter for the Gardai, no less. A “threat”. Threats, of course, are usually made to people, not behind their backs, in private.

And here’s the thing that takes the cake: The TD in question, Brian Leddin, did not make any of these comments. Not one of them. The most he said, as is outlined above, is that Councillor O’Donovan “craves fame”, which is hardly abusive, and, given that she is a politician, and one who manages to find herself in the media constantly for being a victim of something or other, probably accurate. Deputy Leddin is being asked to apologise mostly for comments made by others, not himself.

And, of course, he’s obliged the angry mob. Apologising is always the safest thing to do, and certainly less risky than defending himself in the court of hysterical opinion that is the contemporary Irish media.

But what, exactly, is he apologising for?

He is hardly the first person in Ireland to describe another person – male or female – as “unhinged”. He has hardly committed a grave offence by saying that somebody “craves fame”. It appears as if his crime, in fact, is silence: Not actively speaking up in a private whatsapp group to defend a political opponent from an intemperate comment or two. One might suggest that if Deputy Leddin is being dragged over the coals for this, a lot of other politicians might be sweating this morning.

Of course, if these comments had been made about men, there would be no story here. The reporting also carries the poison-tipped barb which is an accusation of “misogyny” – that the group’s comments reflect a generalised disdain for women, rather than anything specific about the women named. There is, again, absolutely no evidence of that. None is presented. None, it appears, was gathered. Indeed, the only supporting evidence for the claim of “misogyny” is that mean comments were made about a woman, rather than a man. If the comments had been about a man, does anybody seriously think we would be reading accusations of man-hating? Not on your life.

Deputy Leddin’s crime is have been a member of a whatsapp group in which other people said some mean things about one of his political opponents. That’s it.

He has nothing to apologise for, and, if you think he does, go and take a good look through all your own whatsapp groups first, before you throw any stones.

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