Limerick local election candidate Suzzie O’Deniyi says canvassers ‘traumatised’ by racial abuse

Fianna Fáil candidate said verbal attack was disheartening but she is determined to continue

A Limerick local election candidate whose canvassing team was subjected to racist, sexual and misogynistic abuse has said that they were “highly traumatised” by the incident but said she was determined to continue her campaign.

Suzzie O’Deniyi is a candidate for Fianna Fáil in the Limerick City North area. Last Sunday evening, a team of 20 supporters of Ms O’Deniyi were canvassing in the Caherdavin area of the city, when four members of the team were accosted by a man who verbally abused them.

The man, who filmed the scene, shouted aggressively at Ms O’Deniyi’s colleagues. She herself was canvassing on a nearby street at the time.

One of the canvassers attempted to ask the man to stop recording but he continued to do so. The video was posted to social media on Wednesday evening and went viral. Ms O’Deniyi said the incident had had a significant impact on her team.

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“I was deeply outraged and appalled by the racist and sexist verbal abuse that my canvassers received on Sunday, which undermined their dignity and humanity and also the principles of equality and respect that I stand for,” she said.

“I’m very disheartened by it. I’m highly upset by it. I have deep concern for my canvassers. They are highly traumatised and there is a level of fear there at the moment.”

She said that that fear was heightened by the fact the video had gone viral and had elicited so many comments on social media. The incident is the subject of an investigation by gardaí.

Ms O’Deniyi said the four canvassers who were targeted by the man had travelled down especially from Galway to support her. She said the response of the people of Caherdavin and Limerick to the attack had been very empathetic and understanding.

She said she received many messages from fellow candidates and residents, as well as from complete strangers.

“People that I actually don’t know, strangers, have sent me messages on social media standing by me and saying they did not tolerate this disgusting behaviour of an individual.”

She continued: “My neighbours around me are calling to my house and just seeing if I’m okay.”

Ms O’Deniyi said that she has continued canvassing. She said that while she was disheartened by what had happened, she is determined to continue her campaign.

“I do think that these kinds of situations happen and will act as an important catalyst to raise awareness and not to tolerate these type of behaviours.”

She said the team has taken extra precautions this week in terms of safety measures and there is a briefing before each canvass, telling teams to call 999 or 112 if they encounter danger.

“We have said to them that they should feel safe and should not feel intimidated by anyone in any way, shape or form.”

Ms O’Deniyi, whose parents are from Nigeria, moved to Limerick when she was five and attended primary and secondary school there. She works in healthcare and has postgraduate qualifications in leadership.

“I’ve always been interested in human rights and policies that make things better in our society. Healthcare is one of my passions. I felt that Fianna Fáil had the most progressive policies on healthcare and especially healthcare for women,” she said.

She said the issue that most featured on the doorsteps was housing rather than migration.

The party has one councillor already in the Limerick City North area.

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