Harassment has left Fine Gael TD with a ‘cold sense of dread’

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A Fine Gael TD said a man’s decision to send her sexually explicit videos left her filled with a ‘cold sense of dread’ and concerns for her safety during the 2020 election campaign.

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill took the stand to read her victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing of Gerard Culhane who sent her three sexually explicit videos and messages.

Mr Culhane (43) of Marian Place, Glin, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to harassing the TD at unknown locations in the state on dates between January 13, 2020 and on March 26, 2020. He has no previous convictions.

The court heard that during this period, Mr Culhane sent him 13 messages, including three sexually explicit videos, which he later admitted to downloading from a pornography website.

Ms Carroll MacNeill said she was in the midst of a general election at the time and the harassment was “extremely difficult to deal with”.

“I do not wish to be here,” TD said, adding that “with every fiber of my being” she did not wish to waste the time of the court, the gardaí or the director of public prosecutions. But because Mr. Culhane sent her ‘unsolicited footage…we all have to be here’, she said.

She said she would rather spend her time working more constructively in the Oireachtas, serving her constituents and spending time with her young son.

“But because a man thought it was okay to invade my life, my mind and my sense of security because of the twisted goal he shot out of it, I have to use my time to pursue him,” a- she declared.

“I don’t choose to be sexualized in this way, to be in news articles with sexual content. But because a man decided to send me sexually explicit videos, they are there forever more than anything. the world can see. All this is without my consent.

Ms Carroll MacNeill said she did not wish to be “a victim”.

“I’m a private person and I just don’t like it,” TD said, before adding that it was “anxious to downplay” the matter.

Security concerns

Ms Carroll MacNeill said at the time she feared for her safety as she was in the middle of an election campaign in which the main focus was on getting out and meeting as many members of the general public as possible.

She said she was scared when she received the messages and didn’t want to worry about her safety at the time. “We all needed to get down to business,” she said.

Ms Carroll MacNeill said she was on high alert and her team and close family were protecting her further.

“It affected me a lot in the process of trying to become an elected official,” she continued.

She said she felt there was “a real real risk” for her. “I felt it, and I couldn’t see it.”

She felt like she didn’t know where the threat was, or what its nature was. “Was the person away from me, crossing the road towards me. What were they going to do? Was I going to be attacked?

She said at the time that she had “a cold sense of dread” and spoke of a reluctance to smile, reach out and engage.

“But in my mind, whether rationally or not, that person, whoever it was, now had every chance of just walking up and seeing me up close and being near me. And that terrified me. I just didn’t know where it would go and thought I couldn’t stand it,” TD continued.

She said the impact of Mr Culhane sending these messages had a wider effect on her family, husband, parents and sister and said “something of this nature ‘may just’ slip into your life” on a walk with her husband and dogs. , having a coffee with his mother or sitting in front of the television with his son.

Judge Patricia Ryan adjourned the case for finalization until October 21, after acknowledging that a previously ordered probation report had not been prepared for the hearing.

She said she didn’t want to adjourn the case but was reluctant to finalize the case without this report.

Mr. Culhane was remanded in custody on continued bail.

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