Fine Gael Seanad Leader Regine Doherty has bemoaned an alleged surge in online abuse of politicians, saying that “even political sympathisers and supporters seem to think now that it is fair game to give their tuppence worth to our elected representatives.”

“A number of colleagues have discussed online abuse. I can only say that it feels like the abuse of politicians at every level has shifted from third gear to maybe sixth gear.

“Members have asked for a debate on this issue, and I will certainly try to facilitate that after Easter, in the next number of weeks. It has got to a level where we have all gone down such a dangerous rabbit hole that I do not know where we will end up, looking at the level of discourse.

“I do not know whether it is true of our male colleagues here today, but I know from my female colleagues that it is commonplace for them to come into this House, open their emails and receive the most vile and disgusting threats. It is as if people do not think that they have any responsibility for the words they use.

“The discourse appears on a daily basis on all of our social media channels and it is now in our inboxes. It has to stop.

“A few weeks ago we talked about encouraging more women and young people into public life. One would want to be absolutely off one’s bloody rocker to encourage one’s children to come into this life and to have to put up with the abuse that we have to put up with on a daily basis.

“However, we are the only people who can change it and we must do something about it. It needs to start with a debate with the Minister for Justice in the next few weeks, which I will organise.”