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Waterford Junior Minister speaks of impact of fake Facebook profile as Garda investigation closes

A Waterford Junior Minister says severe online abuse left her nervous to go anywhere alone.

A Garda investigation into a fake Facebook page set up in Mary Butler's name in February of last year has now come to a close with no prosecutions.

The page made it appear like she was laughing at victims of child sexual abuse, which resulted in a barrage of abuse for her.

She told Déise Today that the investigation has come to a close with nobody facing charges.

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However, she said she and her family were completely vindicated:

"Where we are at the moment is the Gardaí sent the file to the DPP, the DPP informed me that the matter cannot be progressed any further at this time and it has informed me that the case is being closed and that there will not be a prosecution but I do have the leave to appeal.

"But if I could just say, I spoke at length to the Chief Superintendent in Waterford and in writing he provided me with the following: 'The simple reality is that you and your family are the victims in this case, which was investigated by An Garda Síochána and there is absolutely no equivocation on that."

The Junior Minister for Mental Health and Older people said the abuse had a serious impact on her and her family.

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She says court orders allowed the Gardaí to access a number of specific social media accounts, and concerns for her safety were also raised:

"75% of the person's interactions were in relation to me. The Gardaí normally wouldn't inform you of something like that, but such was their level of concern, they did bring it to my attention.

"The Gardaí advised me to be careful... Well, I took it to mean that I should be careful, that I shouldn't be walking around on my own. And I just took it from that point of view that if I was going anywhere, I'd bring somebody with me."

When asked by Damien Tiernan if she felt threatened she said that she did a little, and when asked if she felt scared she responded, "Not really scared. I suppose I was more concerned about the impact it had on my family."

Mary Butler had her Facebook page suspended when the matter first began last February and it has been suspended ever since.

However, she says she has now taken the decision to close it down for good this weekend:

"[Facebook is] great to get messages out there - positive messages - but when it turns nasty... And you know, I'm a politician and I can take a certain amount of criticism and abuse on social media. I can accept all that. But play the ball, not the person.

"Don't play the person's family.

"I'm a tough bit of stuff. You're not a Junior Minister in a government during a pandemic without being a tough bit of stuff that can take on a lot.

"But when it affects my family Damien, that's when it crosses the line for me."

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