Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has urged women who receive unwanted messages to contact gardaí after a man who sent the TD sexually explicit videos during the 2020 General Election campaign was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence.
The Dublin TD was present at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday as Gerard Culhane (43) was handed a suspended sentence and ordered to stay away from the TD and her place of work.
Culhane (43), of Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing Jennifer Carroll MacNeill at unknown places within the State on dates between January 13th, 2020, and March 26th, 2020. He has no previous convictions.
Speaking outside the court, Ms Carroll MacNeill said while her position as an elected public representative meant there was extra interest in the case, other women also faced unwanted advances, whether online or in person.
“I want to say clearly that it is not acceptable to send unwanted sexual content – to have to receive it at any time of day – whether intended frivolously or threateningly – sending unwanted sexual content is not normal, it is not acceptable.
“If you are in this situation, or any other that is happening without your consent, it is possible to bring those concerns to An Garda Síochána – you will be taken seriously, the criminal justice system is there to support you.
“And while I recognise that it is not pleasant to be here, indeed I have said already I have absolutely no wish to be here, it is possible to put an end to the experience through the criminal justice system and I hope someone may hear that today,” she said.
‘Almost certainly happening to someone else’
Ms Carroll MacNeill said she had pursued the case in part due to concern that if it was happening to her, then it was “almost certainly happening to someone else – and that needed to be stopped”.
She extended her thanks to the court and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for their management of the case. She also thanked Detective Sergeant Rachel Kilpatrick who provided “truly excellent support at every stage of this process”.
Detective Sergeant Kilpatrick’s “professionalism and the way in which she managed every aspect of this case gave me increased confidence and it is her work that has secured this outcome today”, Ms Carroll MacNeill said, adding that she hoped this would give confidence to other women that they would be supported by gardaí.
Man who sent sexually explicit videos to Fine Gael…
She also thanked her party colleagues in Fine Gael for their support.
“As little as I like to admit it, there can be an additional complexity to being a woman in politics. There shouldn’t be, there needn’t be, but there can be.
“I hope that today shows that the difficulties can be overcome. I hope that it shows how much male support there is for women in politics.
“And I hope that by facing down these barriers one by one we can make it easier for the young women of Ireland who will not need to face them when they come in as our successors. Although the impact of this on me was greater than I’d like to admit, at no point has it made me regret going into politics,” Ms Carroll MacNeill said.