Speech by Jan O’Sullivan TD on Labour’s Online Harassment Bill

31 January 2018

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Joni O’Sullivan is the mother of a 17-year-old girl who attempted suicide twice because of on-line bullying.  Joni took the brave decision to go public, first on Facebook and then on the Limerick Leader to highlight what was happening to her daughter and to stop it, for her own daughter and for others who are affected.  Joni and Zoe’s story shows just how devastating the effect of cyber bullying can be.

This is some of what she said on her Facebook post:

‘I never post long posts on Facebook and especially not of personal information but current events in my daughter’s life have left me no alternative but to reach out on social media myself for help.  As you are all aware suicide in Ireland is an epidemic at the moment, and suicide among teens from online bullying is something we should never see.

I can’t help thinking of the parents of children who have committed suicide from bullying and wondering whether they were even aware it was going on, and whether they felt they had done enough to try to stop it.  That’s the reason I’m posting such sensitive details of what is going on for my daughter right now.  This is my daughter Zoe and she is 17 tomorrow.’

Joni describes in the post how the bullying went on for over a year and that her daughter was getting upwards of 50 messages a day calling her names which led to 2 attempts at suicide and her staying in bed for weeks to get away from the bullying.  Joni posted: “No one will understand fear until you wake up to your teen screaming from inability to cope with online bullying coming in through their phone into what should be the safety of their own home”  “I will not lose my child because of online bullying.  I will fight it.  I lay beside her last night as she slept frightened to close my eyes in case I lost her.”

Joni was quoted in the Limerick Leader a saying she was overwhelmed at the response to her post.

She is also quoted as calling for the progression of the Bill the Labour Party is presenting today, “to bring the current Draconian laws into the 21st century and pass the current bill on cyberbullying and enact it into law before we lose more young lives.”

What happened to Zoe and many other young people shows just how urgently we need to bring our laws up-to-date so that the various social media platforms used so extensively by young people are policed to protect those who are harassed and bullied in this horrific way.

I urge all in the House to support the Bill.

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