A former TD who says he lost his seat after ‘absolute lies’ about his personal life were circulated on leaflets and online has called for social media companies to be held to account.
Frank O’Rourke served as a Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North for four years before losing his seat in the 2020 General Election.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, he said someone started circulating ‘completely untrue’ stories about him shortly after his marriage broke down.
“The lie that was told at that time to people close to me was that I had left my wife and child destitute with no money,” he said.
“They said I had obviously emptied the bank accounts, that I had another love child with another person and was living with that person but had another relationship on top of that – which would have left me very busy.”
He said he was initially able to prove to people that the stories were not true and was successful in getting them removed from Twitter and Facebook.
He said it was the week before the 2020 election that the stories began to resurface, first on Facebook and then on Twitter.
“It was only after the election, when I lost, that a number of people came to me from different locations - Celbridge, Maynooth and Leixlip – to tell me that, on the night before voting, in some cases, one leaflet and other cases, two leaflets were dropped through the door.
“One was a summarised version of what I am after telling you and the other, then, was a much longer version discussing in much more disgusting detail what was a complete lie.”
He said he believes he was the victim of an orchestrated campaign that ultimately cost him his seat.
“First of all, the lie was created,” he said. “It was totally made up – it was like a storyline in soap opera. None of it is true; it is all absolute lies.
“That was then resurfaced again in the time of the election and it was obviously pushed to gain traction.”
Mr O’Rourke said a statistical analysis of the North Kildare vote shows that his share dropped by 20% in areas where the leaflets were circulated but increased elsewhere.
“What needs to happen now, the first thing is that social media needs to be held to account and be held responsible,” he said.
“If someone puts up a post that has the potential to ruin someone’s life and damage them to the extent that was done to me, they should be held to account so that information is traceable and those people can be found identified and held to account.”
He said he spent the last year and a half vindicating himself and repairing his reputation.
He has taken action in the High Court to identify the person behind the Twitter posts – and now has the option to take proceedings against them if he so chooses.