Extreme unionist columnist Eoghan Harris has been sacked by the Sunday Independent after he admitted he was involved in a misogynistic and abusive Twitter account under the name Barbara J Pym.
The account harassed Irish journalists and politicians, while promoting unionists and loyalists, as well as Harris himself.
The commentator began his political life as a Marxist before becoming consumed and unhinged in recent decades by his hostility towards Sinn Féin and those he believes are linked to the party.
The main account, which used the handle @barbarapym2 after an English novelist, targeted Irish Examiner political correspondent Aoife Grace Moore, among others.
“This account sent me sexualised messages about whether Mary Lou McDonald ‘turned me on’, the size of my arse and called me a terrorist from the month I started at the Examiner. Since then, I’ve had to go to counselling and the guards,” Moore tweeted on Thursday.
Harris is also facing legal action by author and essayist Paul Larkin and by filmmaker Sean Murray in regard to tweets emanating from ‘Barbara J Pym’.
The Independent’s editor said Harris’s position as a columnist became “untenable” when he confirmed that he had contributed to the account. He said the material “went far beyond what I would describe as fair and reasonable comment”.
Harris claimed the account was operated by a “team of five or six people”, who he declined to name name, saying he did not want to “get them shot”.
The account has since been permanently suspended by Twitter, along with eight other Twitter accounts the company believes to be linked to it. A Twitter spokeswoman said that the accounts were suspended for “platform manipulation and spam”.
In an interview on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme with Sarah McInerney on Friday evening, Harris said there was a long history of journalists using hidden identities communicate with their readers. “There’s nothing problematic about anonymity in my view.”
When it was put to Harris that in 2008, he had criticised anonymous internet users as “little w*nkers masturbating in a room”, he responded: “That was then. That was before Sinn Féin culled that huge vote in the election.”
He blamed Sinn Féin for the action against him, claiming Twitter had come under “major pressure” from “hundreds of Sinn Féin directed agents”.