More than seven in 10 councillors have been threatened, harassed and intimidated during the past three years.
That’s the shocking results of a new survey by the Association of Irish Local Government in partnership with the Crime Management Group.
The report identified responses representing almost quarter of all councillors in the Republic of Ireland.
The survey reveals the daunting reality of life as a councillor in Ireland today, with 48% having considered or are currently considering leaving their role because of threats and harassment.
Respondents routinely experience threats of violence, death threats and threats of sexual violence.
Sometimes, threats were even directed against councillors’ family members.
60% of respondents experienced threats through social media, while 33% experienced threats in a face to face setting.
71% said that they were not prepared or only moderately prepared for handling the threats, harassment and intimidation they experienced.
Only 7% of respondents considered current preventative and response measures to be effective.
A number of longtime councillors in the region who spoke to Ocean FM News said they had never experienced intimidation, harassment or threats outside the normal political jousting.
Others said the vast majority of people are respectful — with the occasional exceptions.
Sligo Councillor Donal Gilroy says no one should be made feel intimidated because if they feel that way, they are intimidated.
And he says it’s particularly wrong when family members are targeted.
President of AILG, Galway Fianna Fail Councillor Mary Hoade, said the results provided a stark depiction of the experiences that many councillors have had — and continue to face.
She said that in recent months there had been ‘disturbing and extreme cases of threats and abuse.’
And she added that this growing issue will not only hold people back from running for future election but will also affect retention rates, with many local public representatives already choosing not to re-run for the next local election.