What the Fuck, is all this About? Mary Lou, Leading the Nominations, for Bully of the Year, Award?

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald nominated for ‘bully of the year’ award over libel case against RTÉ

 18th October 2022

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been nominated for a ‘bully of the year’ award by an organisation that campaigns against powerful individuals using defamation laws to silence critics.

Ms McDonald has been nominated for the award alongside Russian oligarchs including former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

An energy company chief executive, a Serbian businessman, a Belgian lawyer and the Kingdom of Morocco have also been nominated for awards

The awards are organised by the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) who are opposed to powerful people taking Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).

Ms McDonald has been nominated in the category of ‘SLAPP Politician of the Year’.

The organisation’s website said the award is given to a “Politician who has proven most reliant on SLAPPs and legal intimidation to respond to opposition, dissent, or efforts at accountability”.

Her biography for the nomination says Ms McDonald is “not new to SLAPP scene” but said her recent case against RTÉ “cemented” her reputation as a politician who use libel laws to her advantage.

The Sinn Féin leader is up against Turkish Minister for Interior Süleyman Soylu and Greek politician Grigoris Dimitriadis.

Ms McDonald is also the only female candidate for the People’s Choice Bully of the Year Award where she is competing against Mr Abramhovich who was forced to see his football club due to his links with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Tuesday evening, Ms McDonald was leading the poll with 28pc of the public vote.

Earlier this year, the Index on Censorship contacted the Council of Europe (COE) about Ms McDonald’s case against RTÉ, which related to IRA rape victim Mairia Cahill, saying it posed a threat to freedom of speech in Ireland.

Index on Censorship policy and campaigns manager Jessica Ní Mhainín said: “We are alarmed at the legal action that has been filed against RTÉ by the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald as we believe the action is characteristic of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or ‘Slapp’.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he knows of at least three Fine Gael politicians who have received legal letters from Sinn Féin.

Former Fianna Fáil TD Declan Breathnach was sued by Ms McDonald for comments he made on Twitter.

Sinn Féin’s press office refused to answer questions about Ms McDonald’s nomination for an award from the campaign group.

However, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin did field questions on a range of issues from the media at a press conference organised after the party was criticised for not responding to queries.

Mr Ó Broin said Ms McDonald was personally funding her own legal action against RTÉ over an item broadcast on Morning Ireland earlier this year.

“The party does not fund and does not take decisions on whether individual members of the party decide to defend their good name in the courts, full stop. It’s not a pretence, that is a fact,” he said.

Mr Ó Broin said Ms McDonald should not win the award for bully of the year. “She is not a bully,” he insisted, adding that he had “no idea” whether she would attend the awards ceremony this Thursday – but he doubted she would.

Mr Ó Broin said he has not taken a legal case against a politician or a media outlet.

But he warned Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians saying: “Stop telling lies about us and stop libelling us, it’s as simple as that.”

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