The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris blocked many users from his Twitter account yesterday. This came as a response to criticisms of his International Women’s Day Tweet, which was a response to Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald.

The initial tweet from McDonald read “Monday is International Women’s Day – Let’s celebrate women, our achievements and struggles. Who is your Unsung Hero? Tell us about her.” Harris quote-tweeted the Sinn Féin leader, tagging two women.

First, Maria Cahill who shared her experiences of abuse by a member of the IRA in the 2014 documentary “A Woman Alone with the IRA”, and Breege Quinn, mother of Paul Quinn who was murdered in South Armagh in 2007. Breege Quinn has publicly accused the IRA of being responsible for the murder, although no one has been charged with the killing. 

Harris’ tweet (now deleted), responding to McDonald

Harris went on to describe these women as representative of women across Ireland “who stood for truth and justice – and who still seek it.” He stated that “The only place they are “unsung” is your party”, referring to Sinn Féin. He continued, “To the rest of us they are simply heroes. We stand with them.”

The Minister has previously commented on how the “politics of nasty personal attacks and treating opponents as enemies” has a negative effect on public discourse and that politicians should not “demonise each other.”  

Harris condemns “divisive” nature of political discourse

The tweet has since been deleted after backlash from Twitter users. Harris has blocked many users, although they continue to publicly condemn the Minister’s words.  

Emer Nolan – Reporter