The trolling of Ann Travers

The first in a three part series exploring so-called ‘trolling’ and abuse on social media
Ann Travers

Ann Travers

At the beginning of November 2014 it was widely reported that victims campaigner Ann Travers had closed down her Facebook and Twitter accounts following a barrage of online abuse.

It’s worth reminding people of the fact that Ann’s sister, Mary, was murdered by the IRA in Belfast in 1984. The target of the ambush was their father, Tom, a resident magistrate. He survived.

In 2011 Mary McArdle, a woman convicted of murdering Ann’s sister as part of the IRA gang responsible was appointed as special adviser to the Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

Writing for the website L.A.D. earlier this year Ann described her feelings upon hearing the news:

On the way back to my home in Wicklow on Monday 4th April, I tuned into Joe Duffy’s Live Line programme; they were discussing Ronan Kerr’s murder. I don’t know what made me do it but I phoned in and told my story and how hurt we felt that the attack on our family is still justified. I said it was to be welcomed that SF were condemning Ronan’s murder. I had never spoken publicly before about our story and after I hung up I thought I never would again. Then on Wednesday 18th of May 2011 after doing the school run and just about to have 1st coffee of the day the phone rang, it was a BBC Researcher for Radio Ulster Talk Back programme. She asked me if I’d seen the front of the Irish News, I hadn’t so she told me that Mary McArdle had been appointed Special Adviser to the SF Culture Minister. Hearing Mary McArdle’s name after all these years was like being punched in the stomach, she was the only person convicted for Mary’s murder, she carried the guns and wigs, I could barely breathe, I asked the researcher to phone me back, I dropped the phone and panicked, I was back running out of our home in Windsor Avenue and seeing my sister lying awkwardly in the dirt, very still yet gurgling, my dad lying conscious, trying to take off his watch and my mum kneeling beside him “somebody help my poor husband, please somebody help my poor husband “. The box containing my grief and loss that had been kept for 27 years in the back of my head had been forced open . I can’t describe adequately here just how I felt, I thought I’d “moved on” but all the healing I thought I had experienced was undone in one fell swoop.

The following days were manic, I spoke to the media, opening my heart in the hope that the new Sinn Fein would listen, the same Sinn Fein that had condemned Ronan Kerr’s murder, hoping that Mary McArdle would listen, that they would realise and understand the renewed trauma they had caused and how devastating it was. I didn’t think and don’t think they went out on purpose to hurt us. It wasn’t to be. There was no statement, no, ” Mary is standing down as Special Adviser, not because we think she shouldn’t have the job but because we didn’t realise the very real hurt that would be felt by the Travers family” that would have been it if there had, instead it dragged out, Mary’s murder was described as “regrettable ” The DFM described the incident as obviously having a “neuralgic effect” on me. Meanwhile the flashbacks continued and the stress levels raised.

I didn’t know what to do.

I spoke with SDLP MLAs including Alban Maginness who was very kind and we had many long conversations. But ultimately there was nothing they could do to help except offer support and understanding. I decided to phone Peter Robinson’s constituency office to get his email so I could write to him, I thought because he was First Minister he might be able to do something, I was surprised when his secretary offered an appointment to meet him, I was happy to accept, although a little worried as I’d criticised him on Joe Duffy’s programme in the April for all the 3rd Force stuff and wearing his “wee beret” but I didn’t think he would be listening to RTE1. That first meeting was nerve racking, it was in his constituency office and as I waited I looked at the walls which had lots of Unionist memorabilia, it was very alien to me, a Catholic. His Special Adviser came out to bring me in, I asked him if he had “ever murdered anyone”, it was out of my mouth before I thought, he laughed and said no. Peter Robinson was very kind and helpful, he spoke about what they could do to help prevent this from happening to another family but whatever they did, it wouldn’t be retrospective. I left feeling pleased another family wouldn’t have to go through this but my heart was sinking, this was so wrong, so disrespectful to the memory of my gorgeous sister who didn’t ever have the chance to marry, have children, or have her career… I returned home disappointed but determined not to give up.

What happened next was perhaps to provide the initial trigger for the subsequent abuse that Ann suffered on social media:

I saw on the news an MLA who was supportive of our family, Jim Allister. As I had lived in Wicklow for 15 years and England 5 years previously, I didn’t know much about Jim or the TUV, but I wrote to thank him for his support just as I wrote to everyone who had been supportive. He replied, told me as a young barrister he had appeared in front of Dad and not to worry he thought there may be a way to have legislation applied retrospectively. He gave me hope! We had quite a lot of email contact then we met for the first time in Stormont on the day it was announced that the SPAD Bill was launched. People were surprised to see me with Jim Allister, they talked about him being a ” bigot”, sectarian, hating Catholics. This wasn’t the man that I had met. He told me he condemned all terrorists both loyalist and republican , there was no doubt how much he disliked SF but then again considering what had happened to my family and now this, I was hardly in love with them. Many of those who were surprised told me I was right to do all that I had to do.

Ann pointed out that:

I didn’t and don’t agree with all the TUV’s policies but I am grateful to them for the support they have given me. I know many wont like to hear it but its true, there is no point in me saying things just to curry favour. I can only remain true to myself and the memory of my sister.

A private members bill tabled by TUV Leader Jim Allister was eventually passed into law in June 2013 – a law which prevents anyone sentenced to more than five years in prison from being a Ministerial Special Advisor (SPAD).

I carried on with the Spad Bill, even though I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2012, because of the love for my sister. All the name calling to me by those who are unhappy that I spoke up and the Spad Bill succeeding in being passed will never stop my loyalty or love for my family or many of my new friends which include republican and loyalist terrorist victims.

The main (lucid) argument against Ann Travers is that she has allowed herself to be used by politicians to ‘attack’ Sinn Fein. The same arguments are being used repeatedly to attack Mairia Cahill and it was Ms. Travers very public support for the former that prompted the latest wave of online attacks.

Less than a month after quitting Twitter Ann Travers returned to the network on Friday evening. We caught up with Ann to discover what changed her mind.

Your decision to quit Twitter was well documented? What finally forced you to make that decision?
To be told repeatedly your father deserved to be shot because he was a “Cog in an orange state or ” you and your family were/are part of the Brit war machine get out of our country”  and you are a “bigot” because you ask questions about Sinn Féin and the IRA is difficult. This type of question is constant.  Being called a cun* nearly daily isn’t uncommon. A few years ago I was called a “celebrity victim” by a now North Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor, this hurt me greatly. He has never apologised.  I never wanted to be a victim but the IRA made me be one. This lead to other republicans abusing me similarly.  Then my friend Mairia Cahill was brave enough to waive her anonymity for sexual abuse. I watched with horror the abuse she received and  it reminded me of how I was treated when I initially spoke up for my sister. I just couldn’t watch, plus because I was supporting my friend I was being abused again. I decided to take control and remove myself.
How did the abuse you were receiving affect you personally?
When it first began to happen, I was distraught. I couldn’t sleep for days as not only one abused me but four or five, constantly. I began to fear my phone. I felt sick. There was one woman who “stalked” me for 3 years even though I blocked her, she still managed to tweet me through different accounts. Every time my phone “bleeped” I would inhale, nearly stop breathing; if a “friendly” tweet breathe out with relief and have a few chuckles but before you would know it, an aggressive tweet.
What do you think motivates people to troll you on Twitter?
Wow! Big question! I really don’t have any idea, however I guess it’s because I question and support others who question. I also guess it’s because my Dad was a Judge and my sister was murdered by the IRA. they see me as “fair game”.
What prompted you to rejoin Twitter?
A very close friend of nearly 20 years passed away on Wednesday. She was amazing, 48 yrs old, and last year was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was amazing over the past year, an absolute fighter! She was also a very straight talker, she would have faced anyone of my trolls head on. She was fearless, also intensely loyal! So I’m back to speak my mind and to support my very brave friends.
What actions will you be taking to protect yourself this time?

Block, mute, screenshot!

Finally do you have a message for your online abusers and those who have supported you?

I’m back for good and I have a right to an opinion, just as you have but lets listen to each other……properly. Thanks to my friends….I’ve missed my twitter family.

Whatever your opinions of Sinn Féin, Jim Allister, the SPAD bill, dealing with the past, victims or indeed the IRA,  surely no-one deserves the level of online abuse Ann Travers has suffered.

Hours after her return to Twitter posts like these started to appear (authors names redacted).
 Mix 3

Back in January Ann Travers wrote:

In 2014 my wish would be more compassion, respect and tolerance could be shown. That there could be an acknowledgement that terrorism happened here and it was wrong, no justification, whether Loyalist or Republican. ALL WRONG.

Ah yes and one more thing, no more abuse on twitter after writing this, but maybe that’s pushing it! 

In part two of this series we widen the net and speak to other victims of online abuse

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  • chrisjones2

    If it gets too bad report them to Police…all of them

  • barnshee

    This is what happens when SF is held up to the light and– hates it

  • Ulick

    Perhaps someone could helpfully provide a definition of “trolling”? After reading this I’m none the wiser. Is one a “troll” for holding the opinion that Ann Travers is treated as a “celebrity victim” or is it more in line with the two individuals making ad hominem at end? Obviously they weren’t the comments that forced her to quit Twitter though.

    own opinion is that some people take themselves far too seriously on Twitter. If you are dishing it out or putting your opinions online, you have to expect to be challenged in such a public forum. If you can’t accept that then the medium isn’t for you. Throwing the toys out of the pram over the head of it in the way she did is up there with Jamie Bryson’s two hour hunger strike coming to an end with a Chinese takeaway.

    Then there’s Mairia Cahill who no doubt will feature in one of this blogger later “trolling” exposés. She seems to be troll-hunter extraordinaire on Twitter altogether. So much so I notice she was able to draw attention to the first Tweet of an account with no followers, created a few hours beforehand presumably with the sole purpose of Tweeting abusive remarks to her. What had me raising eyebrows was that the offending Tweet didn’t include a reference to Ms Cahill’s username and so she wouldn’t have got an automatic alert it had been made. The cynical person might say some of these Vixens are no shrinking violets when it come to using social media to their own advantage.

  • sean treacy

    Yawn zzzzzz

  • Bryan Magee

    The abuse of victims is a very important issue and I am glad slugger has raised it.

    Is it possible for all people on twitter to be identified-this is an important possible area for the law. If people were held accountable for their words they would be less likely to say them.

    There was a lady who trolled the McCanns (the parents of Madaline McCann), who was exposed on Sky News and committed suicide shortly after. This is a trajedy for the troll, but showed that the troll is often a person to be pitied themselves, not to excuse their awful behaviour. If people could be traced and prevented from being anonymous, then such trolling would be much less likely to happen. The troll could be saved from their own worst instincts by removing anonymity.

    The troll example above is saying things about Ann Travers that are utterly callous and unspeakable.

    I have the highest respect for Ann Travers and the way she has conducted herself. She has done a lot for victims of the troubles, and her own story is incredibly sad and touching. Her appearance in front of the Justice Committee was brave, eloquent, moving, human, and dignified. The troll’s remarks above are the opposite of all of these adjectives.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    touching empathy, Sean

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The people involved in insulting her should be ashamed – but they won’t be. Their disgusting attitudes are treated as acceptable now by such a large group of people, they probably feel like heroes. This is what Northern Ireland has come to.

  • delphindelphin

    Is this what you call being’challenged’?

    To be told repeatedly your father deserved to be shot because he was a “Cog in an orange state or ” you and your family were/are part of the Brit war machine get out of our country” and you are a “bigot” because you ask questions about Sinn Féin and the IRA is difficult. This type of question is constant.

    Being called a cun* nearly daily isn’t uncommon. A few years ago I was called a “celebrity victim” by a now North Belfast Sinn Féin Councillor, this hurt me greatly. He has never apologised.

    I never wanted to be a victim but the IRA made me be one.

  • nilehenri

    ann travers wasn’t trolled and the spad law is wrong.

    what ann found out was that with new technology we are all broadcasters and naturally those with a more interesting story will bubble to the top. however the reader has an immediate opportunity to answer, question and dispute the opinion of the tweeter. on twitter you don’t send out invites, people just come along and listen. if they want to they can answer. that is what happened to ann. it wasn’t trolling.

    trolling has its roots in the darkest day of early internet chat rooms (or maybe even earlier) and it’s a difficult concept to define. a good example is the ‘newfags can’t triforce’ meme from chan. read an example here:

    (extremely nsfw language. some people think that the whole post in itself was a trolling exercise, as they couldn’t believe that the kid was so gullible. that’s how trolling works.)

    bryan magee has posted and mentioned sweepyface, and like many people on the subject gets it completely wrong, because he ignores freedom of speech. sweepyface repeatedly made accusations as regards the mccann family; while distasteful, there was nothing illegal in what she did. martin blunt however then went on to track the woman down, with the end result that she took her own life. were martin blunt’s actions morally more defensable than the actions of sweepyface? i think that what he did is akin to stalking. the idea of policing people’s thoughts and opinions is a bit fascist, which brings me on to jim’s law, the one that prevents people with a serious conviction from holding special advisor’s posts in stormont. is he saying that people can’t change? can we single some group out for special extra punishment. it is a worrying precedent, and how this law hasn’t been challenged and rescinded is a mystery to me. that’s nornoron for you i suppose.

    twitter (as we saw in the scotland independence debate) protects us from information manipulation by the classic traditional powerful media (bbc, newspapers etc). it also protects us from travesties of justice from the criminal element. during the murder of lee rigby the whole world witnessed the unfolding of events through the twitterfeed of one man who happened to be passing by, and recorded media played a big part in the subsequent trial:

    twitter (moreso than other social media) has changed the world, and for the better, and as ann saw, if you can’t stand the heat step away from the keyboard.

  • Bryan Magee

    “can we single some group out for special extra punishment. it is a worrying precedent,”

    I could be wrong but I have heard it already applies to existing Civil Service posts of similar seniority.

    It seems that the party in question – who was involved in the murder of Ann’s sister – has a post within SF, as we saw on Spotlight NI this week.

    Regarding the smileyface episode I think it poses a lot of questions. At no point did I suggest anything volating freedom of speech, what I suggested (and it was nothing more than conjecture) was that removing the option of being anonymous on Twitter might mean people might exercise the right with greater responsibility, if they would have to stand by what they said.

  • babyface finlayson

    My understanding of trolling is that it was usually the kind of posting designed to provoke an angry response or derail the debate. Not necessarily abuse but I would think abuse could well fall into that category. In any case whether she was trolled or not she was certainly subject to abuse.
    I see no reason why we have to just shrug our shoulders and say too bad. If twitter can change the world then the world can change twitter.


    I do not tweet but I have a twitter account. I think it is a zoo full of animals with no manners. I was alerted by a post on Facebook this morning about The Firemen and Mairia Cahill tweeting personal information about other tweeters last night in efforts to harass them. Any comment?

  • nilehenri

    twitter’s not anonymous. brenda leyland (sweepyface, not smileyface. are you trolling?) posted information that she had heard on…sky news. the idea that trolls are lonely people to be pitied is a bit condescending. sometimes opinions are dangerous, in some countries speaking your mind gets you killed. the rule of thumb is as it works fine: if you stand up and make your opinion public i have every much of a right to stand up and disagree with it. provided i don’t do anything illegal, i should not be obliged to identify myself.

  • nilehenri

    i’m not saying ‘too bad’, she can answer for herself, and someone else can always come on and defend her point of view. the huge caveat emptor of course is that i do not condone illegal behaviour, online or anywhere else.


    So I have spent the last hour or so looking at some of the tweets in this matter. It looks like those shown here as an example were selected out of context. The cancer reference above appears to be a response to Mairia Cahill tweeting about Ann Travers’ cancer, or a friend’s cancer? It appears that Mairia has a tendency to tweet personal information about others with or without their knowledge? Indeed, it looks like she and The Firemen were up half the night, last night trying to harass others on Twitter. Shameful behavior on their part. Any comment on this Mick Fealty as owner of this site?

  • Roisin Dubh

    I agree with much of what you say. It is much too easy to throw the term troll out there & accuse someone of trolling and it seems to be used more and more to try and stifle debate. Often when a contributor offers an alternative view particularly when it is delivered robustly the term troll is used to try and deflect.

    I have witnessed this used in particular of late by one fairly active contributor to twitter when they have been asked probing questions which they have so far failed to answer. The questions being asked are legitimate and should be answered but as soon as they are raised, the term ‘troll’ is used which brings many of their supporters rushing in to support and therefore denying anyone the opportunity to question further,

    Of course when someone is given free reign to dominate the media and most areas of politics with no accountability it makes questioning them even harder. Of course then when it is raised online via twitter, facebook etc the ‘T’ word appears and everything is deflected away from the hard questions being asked.

    Personal abuse is never warranted and anyone who resorts to that may indeed be worthy of the tag ‘troll’.

  • Roisin Dubh

    What has this to do with SF?

  • barnshee

    Are by any chance on another planet?

    SF employed a convicted murderer -as a result of A Travers (amongst others) intervention she is removed

    A Travers supports another victim of SF(and/or the IRA –take yer pick)

    A Travers is subjected to insults -” Qui Bono”— whose supporters are disparaging the lady? It must be the DUP lot.

  • mickfealty


    Where’s the personal information on Slugger? If you are trying to make a point that people in glasshouses should not be chucking stones on Twitter then I hear what you say, but I’m not sure what TF has said here that breeches Slugger’s cardinal rule of playing the ball not the man.

    As for “Trolling”, a definition Ulick? Here ye go: It’s a pretty well worn pathology.

  • Bryan Magee

    Well spotted Barnshee – as ever you make an astute point.

  • babyface finlayson

    I took this:

    “twitter (moreso than other social media) has changed the world, and for the better, and as ann saw, if you can’t stand the heat step away from the keyboard.” as saying more or less, “too bad”. Maybe I misunderstood.

    Verbal abuse in public can be an offence as I understand it, if it grossly offends or causes distress.I assume this applies to twitter also.

    Defending a point of view is one thing, but why should anyone have to tolerate personal abuse of a distressing nature because of their views?

  • Bryan Magee

    A well thought through post.

    Perhaps a lot of being a troll is in the tone, as well as the substance?

    There is a kind of “bad equilibrium” in which the tone in which a tweet is written provokes a defensive rather than a candid response, leading to something of a vicious spiral into a “bad equilibrium”: Mr X fears to be other than defensive because he thinks Mrs Y will “fink out” to use the Prisoner’s Dilemma parlance!

  • Zeno3

    Trolling goes back a long time. It used to be “poison pen letters” before the advent of technology. The people who do it are insignificant little sickos. The type who are born lacking empathy. The get a thrill from goading people who have suffered a loss. How sick in the head do you have to be when that is where your kicks come from. They are also pathetic cowards. We should not have to be subjected to the sick rants of the mentally sub normal.

  • Bryan Magee

    “Just saying”.- when it’s obnoxious rubbish its better not to say it.

  • belfastboy

    ‘Obnoxious rubbish’ – sounds like a trolling response, to me. Mick, is this not ‘playing the man’?

  • Bryan Magee

    For the sake of clarity: the word rubbish applies to what you wrote. Innocent people in Northern Ireland especially those in the Catholic community were very vulnerable to attack from the IRA if the IRA decided to murder them, and I believe that what you wrote was really quite tasteless, in effect blaming the victim of a very unpleasant murder for not taking enough care with his daughters.

  • ElephantPark

    Is it only me , or can everyone see through the redaction?

  • Roisin Dubh

    Very much grounded but thanks for asking. I assume you and whoever else believes it is members of SF ‘trolling’ that you have definite proof other than the conclusions you have jumped to above.

    It is very easy to accuse others of trolling especially when what they are saying doesn’t suit your own thinking. Just saying…….. not trolling.

  • barnshee

    ” I assume you and whoever else believes it is members of SF ‘trolling’ that you have definite proof other than the conclusions you have jumped to above.”

    Do keep up


    A Travers is subjected to insults -” Qui Bono”— whose SUPPORTERS are disparaging the lady? It must be the DUP lot.??

    In whose interest is it to deflect the negative publicity arising from MS Travers experiences?

  • patrick23

    Those tweets posted weren’t sent to her, there’s no @. Also, they aren’t really that offensive are they?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Anybody who thinks that Travers/Cahill should just be quiet and take the abuse etc…You are agreeing with Katie Hopkins (The Professional Oxygen Thief). Think over that one for a while…

  • patrick23

    Is anyone saying that? Or are they maybe saying that some of the “abuse” is merely comment that is disliked, and that the rest can be blocked, muted and reported. What do you want to happen?

    Katie Hopkins is arguing for freedom of speech. On Nolan she probably foolishly included criminal acts (death threats) within her spectrum of allowable comment, but other than that it was basically “sticks and stones”. The US Supreme Court is hearing today on whether Facebook death threats are protected free speech. There’s a chance that fine body might agree with Katie Hopkins.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Katie Hopkins isn’t arguing for freedom of speech, she’s arguing for freedom from consequence. I will stand on the front lines with a shattered bottle of vodka ready to let anyone opposing free speech have the best I’ve got to offer, but there is a distinct line between freedom to say something and consequence or punishment for what you say.

  • patrick23

    Thanks for replying.
    Katie Hopkins thinks if I threaten you with death, that’s OK. You believe there should be a consequence to that. Fine.
    However, your post refers to people saying Travers or Cahill should “take the abuse”. That’s potentially different to Hopkins’ death threats. That could be, as the article discusses, someone calling someone else “a c***”, or mocking them as an attention seeker (screengrabs). Hopkins would call this harmless, but seemingly you want to see a consequence to it? What would the consequence be?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Kate Hopkins is doing nothing but seeking publicity and she is doing this via the art of being controversial.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I think the final ruling should be that if its illegal IRL it should be illegal online.

  • patrick23

    Fine. So what in the article above would be illegal?

  • kalista63

    Excellent point.

    As for trolling,mthe Telegraph accused the #CameronMustGo campaign of bullying, a common version of trolling and it’s an example of how the term can be abused, used dismissively.

    I think the OP is kind of a strange place to go. No matter what one thinks of Ms Cahill and Ms Travers, they’re victims and any debate’s going to look ugly.

    Interesting that even after the Spotlight programme, the media didn’t take on the case of Breige Foyle regarding the circumstances of her mother’s killing. Why would that be?

  • A Morris

    Twitter is a very unforgiving medium and the anonymous
    nature of it is a perfect breeding ground for those who get their kicks from
    insulting others.
    I’ve had first hand experience as a woman who is perceived
    to be in the public eye it is assumed I’m fair game.
    I was at first much more tolerant than I am now. I’ve a two
    strikes and blocked rule for anyone who uses vulgar, threatening or
    sexist language.
    However, I do think the word troll is thrown about far too
    Disagreeing with someone’s view point is not trolling as
    long as it’s done in constructive way. I don’t mind being challenged, I don’t
    mind people disagreeing with me or critiquing my work.
    I do mind sad ‘mainly male’ posters obsessing about my
    private life, I don’t see such accusations or slurs being levelled at male
    I’ve had my home address put online by one particular sad
    mess of a human being and had bloggers write anonymous posts about me with
    untrue allegations about my private life that have been widely circulated.
    In the last two weeks I’ve blocked almost 40 people, some
    who have insisted on returning in different guises.
    But I am a reporter and not a victim, while the posts
    levelled at Ann are unpleasant they are not to the best of my knowledge
    threatening in the way they have been to Mairia Cahill. Her twitter feed has
    had some horrendous comments posted on it. The lack of any kind
    empathy from other women towards her I find particularly baffling. Regardless of
    what you think about how her case has been reported child sex abuse and
    exploitation should never be something to mock a person with.
    What I have also been bemused at in the last fortnight is how
    some of those who have been most outspoken about Ann’s plight have gleefully
    joined in the vulgar abuse I was receiving.
    As I said I’m not a victim and I guess those people who
    champion the rights of some women feel I deserve all I get which somewhat
    weakens their argument.
    Twitter is not for everyone, you need a thick skin and
    an ability to recognise that many of those involved in the abuse are mentally
    unstable and the kind of people who would run a mile if you confronted them
    face to face.
    Best to block and move on.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    from the article above? Nothing jumps out other than directly calling someone a cun*. However that isn’t the extent of the abuse that is directed.

  • patrick23

    So, if we go back to your original point then. Ann Travers is interviewed about these terrible things that happen to her, she’s given the opportunity to list them (including the apparently dreadful “celebrity victim” slight) and we get some screenshots. If I read that, decide she should suck up a bit of name calling (“take the abuse”) that would make me a dreadful Katie Hopkins type, but you on the other hand are not Katie Hopkins because you’d lay some criminal charge, except that there isn’t any crime?

    If the extent of the abuse is death threats I’m sure the PSNI would be happy to investigate, but the Firemen and Ann Travers don’t refer to that happening to her. The article is focused on “celebrity victim” (which itself spawned a load of “will you get your colleague to apologise? “stuff on twitter today), c*** and the screengrabs.
    If the purpose of your post was to say ” I and all right thinking people object to death threats” then fine, but it’s not relevant to the post

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Insulting someone is technically against the law. Public order offense of course, but still against the law (or has that changed recently…I know there were discussions in the UK on this) and whilst calling someone lanky isn’t exactly criminal behaviour, it’s a question of scale. If I approached Theresa May in the street and shouted “you’re a cu**”…I would frankly be shocked if I didn’t find myself with cuffs on. Travers is no different.

  • Tochais Siorai

    All ‘Guests.’ Could even be the same person.

  • James Maxwell

    Ann quit Twitter after being vile to a girl who lost family in the Ballymurphy massacre. Ann apologised several hours later for her comments before quitting Twitter because of “trolls”

    That’s not to say Ann hasn’t directly received vile abuse in the past. She has but what she has described in this moment is not what is reflected on the evidence of Twitter. For sure folk have challenged many of her assertions and comments. But directly trolled so she lives in fear of her phone?

    Had the writer done his/her research they would see that very little of the abuse and deragtory messages written about Ann Travers have been put directly to her. In order for her to see any of the cruel and horrible comments about her she would have to actively search Twitter for them. The scenario she is describing does not makes sense. And this is obvious to anyone who does a Twitter search for Ann or her Twitter username.

    That’s not condoning any indirect messages of hate either. That’s simply a fact that what Ann has said is not strictly true. And while I also do not condone the sentiment in the screenshots provided at the close of this blog, is that really what trolling is? Or is it an expression without empathy or tact of the reality that Ann hasn’t actually been trolled or received much in the way of abuse directly.

    Mairia Cahill on the other hand totally disgusting some of the abuse she has taken and some of the blog posts made about her. If some examples are to be found of trolling anyone then Miss Cahill’s recent experience is the perfect, albeit tragic, example.

    But what Mairia seems to be guilty of, and evidently Ann, is taking any challenges to theirclaims and comments as trolling also. So diluted has Mairia’s story become and politicised I think people do have a right to question motives and details when contradictions occur. Mairia deserves many answers, apologies, and ultimately justice. But whoever is advising her and taking her story to meet their own personal ends need to look at themselves and the damage they are doing.

    While Ann may be best friends with Mairia she has done the woman no favours at all. As too has Eilis O’Hanlon who has made clear for years now her hatred for SF. Doesn’t matter if she is family. Mairia deserved to have her pursuit of what is right taken up by an impartial lead so as to at least avoid the quagmire of “agenda driven” allegations that her story is now steeped in. Again is it really trolling to suggest there is an agenda in asking how who and why Mairia’s story is coming out now given those that are shouting loudest?

    Both Mairia and Ann would do well to take a leaf out of Michael McConville’s book and pursue justice away from political influence and away from the glare of social media.

  • patrick23

    OK. I’m not sure the law would really treat you too harshly for it, they’d probably just take you out of the way, but I’ll defer to any cop or solicitor with experience.
    Would you count the offence only if it was direct, either @ or DM? Or would it be enough for me to write it on a post I made to my followers?
    I looked up the law in question, there was something about it not being a crime to shout c*** or whatever in your own house, or at someone who was in a separate house. I took the latter to refer to phone calls or emails as its not a public order offence as its in private. Where are the Slugger legal eagles to advise


    Mr.Fealty, what has become clearer is that you have allowed your blog to be hijacked in some effort to harass a twitter account. I am sorry to say that as you seem like a reasonable sort. I have looked at ALL the tweets and not one of the tweets was even directed to Ann Travers. How did she feel harassed/abused by something she could not even see? As someone here on Slugger has pointed out already the @ was never once utilised in the tweets. Also, it appears that Ann Travers was blocked by the twitter account that has been targeted in this story.
    Those that have reprinted this story on other sites have a well-known agenda and I believe they have confirmed that agenda through this very exercise.
    If I were the subject of this witch hunt you have permitted on your blog I would consider taking some action against you.


    I agree. Twitter is a sewer, like most of the internet. That there are some who treat it so seriously is nearly more worrying than the bad behaviour on the site itself. As for trolling, the comments were never directly sent to Ann Travers, there was no @ in any of them. So someone else had to send them TO HER, for her to feel abused. Also important to remember that Ann Travers claimed abuse and left Twitter weeks before the above were ever tweeted.


    I could not have said it better myself. Well done.


    I believe Mairia Cahill, the Firemen and others tweeted the personal details of the twitter account named in this B.S. Repeatedly.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Valid point, but I think this is more a case of the law catching up with the reality. Twitter etc are public forums. Even DM’s are not private communications in the same way a conversation by 2 people in their own dwelling would be. It’s a fine line to tread between what is and isnt permissible, I do think however that if multiple people deem something said publicly about someone else in a public forum of sorts, that is as the law would deem “offensive in nature” then this is where the law should land. Who knows where it will end up though.

  • patrick23

    Well, Ms Cahill took the opportunity to post the individual’s place of employment which is generally considered poor form. I can only imagine if one tweeted Ms Cahill’s place of employment that The Firemen would be amongst the disapproving chorus

  • patrick23

    Yeah I was two letters out,but in my defence I was on my phone. Handily The Firemen haven’t blanked it out on Twitter, it’s just on Slugger it becomes slightly translucent

  • patrick23

    I believe it takes one person, not necessarily the victim, to be offended. Cops don’t count because they’re used to bad language (how quaint). In the twitter world one complainant seems a low bar, I’m sure I could find someone who found puppy dogs and new born babies offensive

  • Sp12

    “authors names redacted”

    No they haven’t been, not even slightly.
    I’m not seeing any @anntravers posts from her, so rather than trolling or directed abuse it’s basically tweets that Ann would have to go looking for no?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    hence the “multiple people” suggestion.

  • patrick23

    When the Vixens first tweeted (done internal ira document if memory serves) Mick stated he was happy to use them as a source as he could essentially vouch for them. I guess the argument is the same for The Firemen, but given how they seem to line up so often on the Ann Travers /MC (next installment or part 3?) side of any argument, I believe their ongoing anonymity isn’t helpful to debate


    I hope I am not sending this twice.
    It appears that the subject of this Slugger O Toole witch hunt (and that’s all it can be described as with all the new information) had Ann Travers blocked for weeks, for abusive and harassing tweets. If Ann Travers was blocked (as has been demonstrated this morning) and none of the tweets were directed at her (with @) how did she feel abused my them? I think that is called going out of your way to feel offense?
    This is really a disgrace for this site.


    Mick, the initial post has been demonstrated to be inaccurate and dishonest. It is a pity that truth seems to have become an acceptable casualty for you.

  • patrick23

    Aye OK, I wasn’t clear. On the internet I could find 1,000 people to find any one thing objectionable. If it’s a numbers game it encourages the mass taking of offence of twitterstorms, or the Daily Mail approach to Sachsgate, say. Mass finding of offense is a social media specialty. If I’m childish enough to call the Belfast Barman(ager) “a c***” is he better served blocking me, or finding his three mates to help with a complaint? If I did it again tomorrow, or from a different account, and then next week, and then my mate did it, then we could call that harassment and use some law related to that. Is that not far better than adults being offended by a bad word?

  • Granni Trixie

    To put in context the outstanding leadership of Anne Travers (and Mairia Cahill), lets factor in that only around 1994 did government policy recognise the existence and needs of victims and around that time too Mrs McConville’s children found a voice which broke the silence over the disappeared. What broke Annes silence seems to have been the obscenity of someone involved in her sisters murder being given an influential position ‘advising’ government ministers (at around 90K!). She knew it was wrong and obviously decided to use her “moral capital” to rectify that wrong. I admire her to bits.

  • patrick23

    So the needs had only been recognised by the government for 17 years before she took her stand?


    Granni Trixie, on the matter of her personal tragedy I admire her stance as well.That has nothing to do with what this post has been all about, the harassment of someone on Twitter who has the audacity to speak against form. The tweets above were not even directed at Ann Travers and they came weeks after Ann Travers quit twitter for what now appears to NOT have been abuse directed at her but because of abuse she inflicted on another twitter user.

  • Comrade Stalin

    idea that trolls are lonely people to be pitied is a bit condescending. sometimes opinions are dangerous, in some countries speaking your mind gets you killed

    Sending a message to someone saying that you hope they are raped and/or murdered is going a bit beyond expressing an opinion and you have to ask questions about what sort of person would find it appropriate to say such a thing.

  • kalista63

    Mairia does herself no favours and it’s very easy to bring her to awkward places, for her.

    Both she and Ms Travers have very large Achilles heels and they’re well known, now on Twitter and elsewhere.

    Both need better advisors, IMHO.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I find it amazing that people on this thread don’t see the problem with some of what has been said to Ann and others. I suspect disingenuity is at play.

    Republicans would react uniformly with anger and outrage, and rightly so, to the suggestion that the Bloody Sunday victims, or the Ballymurphy victims, were using the deaths of their loved ones for their own selfish purposes. Why do they it therefore consider it acceptable to throw such accusations at Ann Travers or Máiría Cahill in similar circumstances ?

  • kalista63

    Funny that you should mention Ballymurphy relatives because one of them is at the heart of this and it’s been an ongoing issue between Ann Travers and them, based around he willingness to address state actions on individual cases, as opposed to within a general sweeping comment about all violence.

  • patrick23

    Is disingenuous that one where you deliberately miss the point? Hardly anyone seems to have engaged with the point you describe.
    Are the screengrabs trolling if they aren’t directed to her?
    Are the Firemen right to effectively identify the person the screengrabs show to be trolling?
    Elsewhere, as quoted by the BBC, she appears to believe that “justifying murder” is trolling; she could be referring to a whole host of things that no reasonable person would consider trolling.
    is online abuse the same as real world abuse?

    Also, Ballymurphy is mentioned quite prominently in some of the comments…

  • kalista63

    Funny that this comes up this week, the second anniversary of the Fleg decision. In reaction, we had an Alliance woman with thugs on her rooftop and a young family, also Alliance, attacked in the house they shared with their young children.

    We’ve immigrants crapping it one their houses due to racist attacks, with questionable reaction from certain parties.

    Imagine if they could hit a block button.

  • patrick23

    And to add to the idea that there is a circle jerk element to this, this article is posted on tpq and Mairia Cahill has written her own version on Vixens

  • chrisjones2

    Nice to see you join Slugger to attack Cahill

    ANd so the campagn goes on

  • chrisjones2

    Aye in the dark somewhere and not criticise their betters

  • chrisjones2

    What is apparent is that you have suddenly appeared on this blog to attack Ann Travers and anyone here who supports her or criticises what has been done to her

    Anyone who says anything contrary to your views is ‘hijacking’ Slugger

    Do grow up[. Your postings just show your sympathies and bias

  • chrisjones2

    Aye ….shed be better to seek favours rather than complain about her rape and treatment by SF and PIRA

  • chrisjones2

    Jez….she tweets personal information….where does she get it? Probably from the public domain

  • chrisjones2

    Funny how SF always demand proof of all allegations about them but seem strategy reluctant to follow that diuctum in attacking others

  • Comrade Stalin

    but given how they seem to line up so often on the Ann Travers /MC (next installment or part 3?) side of any argument,

    Did it cross your mind that this side of the argument might be right ? Why do you think it’s necessary that every opinion contributed to a person must criticize both sides of the coin here in equal measure in order to be considered fair ?

    This is the mirror image of the various debates I’ve seen here about Loyalists Against Democracy (LAD). According to some, LAD are biased because they never go after nationalists, rather than because nationalists simply don’t provide enough material for them to lampoon.

    I believe their ongoing anonymity isn’t helpful to debate

    What difference does anonymity make ?

    Anonymity allows some of us to comment on matters without receiving death threats or losing our jobs. Where people use anonymity to attack or threaten others, or break the law, I agree it is a problem. But we live in a place where it is dangerous to express a view in public, which is what Ann and Máiría are dealing with.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Is a person’s status as a victim or a relative of a victim contingent on her political opinions ?

    Should the Pat Finucane Center’s calls for inquiries, justice and so on be dismissed on the basis that they seldom criticize the IRA ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Hardly anyone seems to have engaged with the point you describe.

    I don’t care. And either way it’s nothing to do with whether I’m right or wrong.

    Are the Firemen right to effectively identify the person the screengrabs show to be trolling?

    I don’t think it’s right for people to out others who contribute anonymously. I also don’t think it is right for people to use anonymous accounts for the purposes of trolling, sending personal abuse etc.

    Elsewhere, as quoted by the BBC, she appears to believe that “justifying murder” is trolling

    Exactly what did she say that leads you to this conclusion ?

    she could be referring to a whole host of things that no reasonable person would consider trolling.

    But I know what she’s referring to. I’ve seen the comments directed at her. Is there a specific reason why you think she’s being untruthful ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Just because physical assaults and attacks are more serious than ones delivered electronically and remotely, does not mean that trolling is not a serious problem.

    Nobody should be hounded out for having an opinion or for a public position they’ve taken.

  • James Maxwell

    Not at all, but do you really think that feeding so called trolls has benefited bringing those culpable to any kind of justice? I mention Michael McConville as he recognised well during the furore of Gerry Adams arrest and questioning that for most showing any kind of empathy or interest it was about serving their personal agenda rather than bringing any kind of closure to the horrific murder of Jean McConville. And he chose to step away from high profile political engagement and social media attention because it was the right thing to do.

    I genuinely believe Mairia and what she claims happened to her. I believe there was callous attempts to sweep it all under the carpet and those complicit in that need brought to account for their actions in covering up child abuse.

    But do you think any other victim watching what is unfolding in Mairia’s case would really come forward now? Perhaps a few, maybe. But what Mairia said she intended her coming forward to be, a platform and inspiration for other victims to come forward, has been decimated.

    I don’t blame Mairia at all for what has become something of a social media circus. I absolutely blame those that have been advising her. And given the prior agendas of some of those attached to Mairia and their own much more well versed experiences of social media I can’t help but think they have laid her right in the line of fire not for Mairia’s benefit but for their own “Get Adams”, or “Get SF” agendas while others are getting great mileage covering the story. And that in itself is abhorrent.

    Let’s not forget Mairia herself only came on to the Twittersphere following the Spotlight program. Frankly it was an ill advised move given the toxic element to Twitter. That is not to excuse trolling, that is just a sad fact of what social media is currently.

    There is much more at stake for Mairia and other victims of abuse covered up by paramilitaries and the state than getting in to it with largely faceless, anonymous nobodies.

    But that is a huge digression from the point of the article, Ann Travers. The claim that she left Twitter because of abuse directly made towards her is nonsense. The evidence on Twitter itself sounds that out.

    Ann made a rather vile and disgusting comment to a woman who had lost family in the Ballymurphy massacre. She came back, apologised for her comments, and promptly shut down her account.

    And personally, having been a cancer survivor myself, I find it just a tad reprehensible that Ann would use the subject of cancer to illicit an emotional empathy from anyone reading when it is fairly obvious she is not being honest about why she quit Twitter in the first place.

    The point being made by all here is that, even on the evidence provided by The Firemen, comments made about Ann were not directed to her but indirectly made. The only way Ann or anyone could have seen them is if they had proactively looked for them.

    I am sure there has been things written about me indirectly that I would not find particularly nice or flattering. My sensibilities tell me though that I shouldn’t seek out such comments. And if anyone is rude or vile towards me directly one thing I will not do is feed the conversation.

    But maybe that’s just me. I will simply never seek to be a victim no matter what.

  • chrisjones2

    Harassment? Psychological damage? Suffering?

  • patrick23

    I could go through someone’s posts, pick out elements of information and using a variety of publicly available sources piece that together. You could probably find out who a number of prolific posters on here were within an hour. Would it be OK to post?

  • patrick23

    I don’t require them to be impartial, and (obviously) I acknowledge the benefits of anonymity, though that’s more obviously the case in comment rather than “news”.
    They might well be on the side of all that is right in the world, but that’s not my point.
    My objection is that they’ve a prominent spot above the line. They’ve used it to issue MC press statements. They’ve written this article, attacked below the line. I can’t check the Ballymurphy accusation as her Twitter is private, but it’s an interesting accusation. The article doesn’t mention the incident, it doesn’t question Ann Travers behaviour at all (which of course may be beyond reproach, but many have regretted things they’ve said on the internet) and it sensationalises by reprinting tweets never actually sent to the party in question. It’s soft soaping and I’d question its objectivity.
    I imagine The Firemen are just a group of young fellas with an interest in investigative journalism and lots of time to spend on Twitter, who’s names would mean nothing to me. I believe though that the double whammy of not identifying the chaps, and them not mentioning any link to Travers or MC undermines the article, the participants and the site

  • Neil

    she could be referring to a whole host of things that no reasonable person would consider trolling.

    But I know what she’s referring to. I’ve seen the comments directed at her. Is there a specific reason why you think she’s being untruthful ?

    From Mick’s link:

    In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

    How can a message that wasn’t actually sent to Ann be considered trolling? What discussion can be derailed by a message not posted to that discussion? How can someone ‘provoke an emotional response’ without sending a message to be responded to? It simply does not meet the definition.

  • patrick23

    I’m on my phone so I can’t post quotes, I hope these are in the correct order.
    People shouldn’t receive abuse on the internet. Elsewhere in this thread you criticised me for wanting LAD to do a “these guys are bad, but these guys are bad too ” faux balance. Did you really want me to open all my comments with “let me say first, all abuse is wrong” before going on to say why I dislike the article? Or “abuse is wrong but only some of this is trolling”?
    I think an argument against online abuse is weakened by poor examples. I think the fact that she found a fairly simple solution by blocking people and making her account private means we need to put things in perspective.

    I agree with you re anonymity.

    She said she’d seen murder justified, per the BBC article on why she was leaving twitter. I’d say, unless it was related to her family, and given two people might define something as murder/killing or whatever, then it’s not abuse. It’s just things Ann Travers doesn’t like.

    You’ve seen the comments – I don’t doubt for a minute there’s rotten stuff in there. I think that in defining abuse as the article does (someone on the other side of the world calling you an attention seeker) then the idea of abuse/ trolling is extended so widely as to lose meaning. More than that, it shuts down debate. That shutting down of debate seems broadly similar to how, in criticising the article, you seem to think I’ve accused Ann Travers of being a liar. I haven’t.


    With minimum internet skills anyone can search and find lots of personal information of any nature. Most choose not to and if they come upon it most just move on.


    I posted on the blog a few years ago under my maiden name, specifically to protest the abhorrent treatment by Sinn Fein of Brendan Hughes. I believe I also posted on the Paul Quinn matter. I am not new. I speak when it is important. Maybe something others should try?


    I do not see any of the obscenity you claim in the tweets provided above. If the comments you claim were written to you, would they not have been included in The Firemen’s post? That certainly would have made a stronger case.


    Question: Are there screen shots to support the claims that Ann Travers was called those filthy names? Why are they not included in this?

  • Bryan Magee

    Its possible to aim to deliberately provoke people (whether A or not) by saying deliberately obnoxious things about person A. That’s still trolling I presume!

  • Neil

    That would depend. First of all, we can then discount that Ann was being trolled. One cannot be trolled by someone sending someone else a message. Ann cannot be provoked into an emotional response without someone provoking her specifically.
    Second, to the definition. I always understood trolling to be the derailing of a thread by any means, subtle or otherwise. That obviously is not the case here. It may provoke an emotional response from person A, it may be designed to do so, but then the person being trolled isn’t Ann.
    This is pedantry, but trolling someone, depending on who you talk to can be defined as per definition provided, or being a bit cheeky online and everything in between. That’s not how words work. We have some great words which actually mean what we’re trying to say without adjusting the meaning of existing words to suit ourselves. Harrassing someone online isn’t trolling, it’s harrassing someone online.

  • Comrade Stalin

    My objection is that they’ve a prominent spot above the line.

    Both are prominent stories in recent months. It’s unfortunate that you’re unhappy with their coverage.

    it sensationalises by reprinting tweets never actually sent to the party in question.

    You now seem to be saying that trolling isn’t trolling even when it is in public as long as you don’t tag the person you’re aiming it at. I don’t think that’s valid.

  • Comrade Stalin

    LAD lampoon loyalists because their directionless, megalomaniac and unrealistic output begs to be satirized.

    There is no nationalist equivalent to Jamie Bryson or Willie Frazer.

    If you can find a way to make a joke about the name “Northern Ireland”, bombers in government, corruption – go ahead and do it. they may be issues that you have problems with but that doesn’t make them funny.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Did you really want me to open all my comments with “let me say first, all abuse is wrong” before going on to say why I dislike the article?

    No, I don’t.

    My point is that this is what you seem to expect. The suggestion seems to be that Ann Travers isn’t a legitimate victim because she has omitted to condemn certain things in the manner that you expect. I don’t think that is a reasonable expectation.

  • Comrade Stalin

    If using social media to circulate hateful messages about a person while not actually tagging them is not trolling, then it is something equally bad to the extent that drawing a distinction is splitting hairs.

  • Bryan Magee

    Well whatever you call it – nice it ain’t!

  • patrick23

    I think you’ve mixed me up with someone else. I haven’t asked her to condemn anything

  • patrick23

    it’s a tree falling in the woods. It’s someone you don’t know, talking about you to a small amount of people, that you’d never hear about unless you looked for it, and the abuse itself in thsoe tweets is trivial. That definition of trolling means on any day, every person who has ever uttered a statement publicly, is being trolled somewhere on twitter. It probably means most comments here could be construed as trolling (you’d agree I guess on this particular thread), and all comments on any newspaper website probably too