Mary Lou, Hard Luck, there is always, Next Year, for Bully of the Year, Dont Give Up?

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Mary Lou McDonald named runner-up to Roman Abramovich at ‘Bully of the Year’ awards over libel case against RTÉ

21st October 2022

Mary Lou McDonald has finished runner-up to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in a competition named “Bully of the Year”, run by an organisation that campaigns against powerful individuals using defamation laws to silence critics.

The Sinn Féin leader was nominated for the award alongside several oligarchs, as well as Russian president Vladimir Putin. Ms McDonald was the only female candidate for the People’s Choice Bully of the Year Award.

On Tuesday she was leading the poll with 28pc of the public vote. However, former Chelsea FC owner Abramovich ultimately claimed top prize by securing 55pc of votes, compared to 41pc for the Sinn Féin leader.

The awards are organised by the Europe-wide Coalition Against Slapps in Europe (Case), which is opposed to powerful people taking Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (Slapps). ​

Ms McDonald also came runner-up in the category of ‘Slapp Politician of the Year’.

The organisation’s website said the award would be 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 the Slapp scene” but said her recent case against RTÉ “cemented” her reputation as a politician who uses libel laws to her advantage.

She was up against Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu and Greek politician Grigoris Dimitriadis, with Mr Dimitriadis winning.

Other winners on the night included Yevgeny Prigozhin – also known as Vladimir Putin’s chef – who was named Oppressive Oligarch of the Year, and the Kingdom of Morocco for Cross-Border Bully of the Year – a category that spotlights the “most shameless efforts to use courts in different countries to silence a public watchdog”.

Earlier this year, the Index on Censorship, which campaigns for freedom of expression, contacted the Council of Europe about Ms McDonald’s case against RTÉ, which related to IRA rape victim Máiría Cahill, saying it posed a threat to free 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.”

Sinn Féin’s press office refused to answer questions about the nomination.

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