Emer O'Neill: My family's been threatened since I called out Tommy Tiernan joke

The presenter and activist recently walked out of a Vicar Street show over its content
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.59 24 Jan 2023

Share this article

Emer O'Neill: My family's been...

Emer O'Neill: My family's been threatened since I called out Tommy Tiernan joke

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.59 24 Jan 2023

Share this article

An RTÉ presenter and activist, who called out Tommy Tiernan over a racist joke at one of his recent live shows, has said her family has been threatened in recent weeks.

Emer O'Neill left the Vicar Street event soon after a joke and in a post on Instagram noted that “a night that was to be fun and full of laughter turned sour with a way too close to the bone joke”.

Tiernan has since contacted Emer to apologise for the joke. The pair spoke in-depth over the phone and he has removed the joke from his show.


Emer told The Hard Shoulder she has been subjected to online abuse since the incident.

"Initially it kind of started as an attack on me personally - with things like 'I tried it as a presenter, I was terrible, I failed, this was my way of getting fame", she said.

"Never in the history of the world has anybody tried to stand up for racism and call people out, in order to gain fame or notoriety.

"It is generally not the popular opinion and generally racism is not recognised in places.

"You can clearly see by the outcome of it all".

'I won't ever stop'

Emer said her career started as an activist, and she won't be silenced.

"I started my career in terms of trying to bring awareness to the lack of representation, diversity and equality and that's where I will always focus," she said.

"So this is nothing new... and people saying things like 'Will she ever stop?' - No, I won't.

"I won't ever stop until I see change in our country".

'A nation of migrants ourselves'

She said the online hate speech has switched from a personal attack to targeting entire communities.

"Where is all this hate coming from - and coming from a nation of migrants ourselves," she said.

"We bring it back to 'No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish' - Irish were included in that lesser society of people as black people were historically.

"We as Irish people were treated that way, and then you roll on centuries later when we still have Irish people living all over the world... yet we still have the audacity to say things like 'Out, out migrants'.

"The irony is striking".

'There is so much hate'

Emer said people need to tackle such online hate.

"I know it's very difficult to step in and try and respond to somebody that's inciting hate and racist rhetoric," she said.

"Delete, ban, report - don't scroll by - that is one way that you can use your voice to make a difference.

"Be an ally, contact people that are going through these things.

"For me it looks like there is so much hate, and there is so much hate.

"I've been threatened, my family's been threatened, my husband's received emails and messages.

"It's incredible the extent the people are going to.

"Honestly it's the people of Ireland and messages that I recieve - calls, voice notes - all that kind of stuff.

"Stuff on my social media of 'Thank you Emer for standing up, for fighting, for using your voice for people that can't'.

"It has not been an easy three weeks for me and my family; but it also hasn't been an easy 37 years of life.

"It seems it's the same people that have tried to break me down over the course of my life that have actually helped to build me up to this person and to try and continue to stay strong and continue to fight," she added.

Main image: A split-screen of Emer O’Neill and Tommy Tiernan

Share this article

Read more about

Activist Emer O'neill No Blacks No Dogs No Irish The Hard Shoulder Tommy Tiernan Vicar Street

Most Popular