October 19, 2021

Crown of thorns, death threats and family abused – John Halligan outlines why he is not seeking re-election

Outgoing Waterford TD and Junior Minister John Halligan revealed he received a crown of thorns in the post and was subjected to death threats during the abortion and same-sex marriage referendums.

He issued a stark warning by saying: “I can guarantee you this whoever is in Government next time and there will be four representing this constituency – some will have to go into Government. They are going to get the same.”

Minister Halligan, who this week announced he will not run in the upcoming election was speaking to Damien Tiernan on WLRFM’s Deise Today.

He explained it’s been a difficult process being in power and he faced a constant barrage of criticism, death threats and even received an item depicting the crucifixion.

“You get abuse at everything. It’s horrendous,” Minister Halligan said.

“I remember when I led the abortion referendum and same-sex marriage campaigns in Waterford, the stuff that came in on top of me. People were sending letters through my door.

“I had a crown of thorns sent to me in the Dáil that was delivered in a padded packet, all sealed up in an envelope. I still have it, it’s up there in the Dáil.”

At stages, Minister Halligan admitted the threats became so toxic he had no option but to get the Gardai involved.

“I got death threats! Things saying it won’t be long until you die, tonnes of stuff.

“There was the incident where a guy said to me, ‘you better start checking under your car every morning.’ So I thought ‘look, another nutter!’

“I went to the gardai as I said to myself, ‘I can’t leave this go in case this guy does some damage to a woman or a child or anyone, in case he is off the wall.’

“The gardai tracked this guy down to Dublin and there was no remorse. I asked, ‘was he a threat to other people?’ The gardai seemed to think he wasn’t, so it was left at that.”

His family was not excluded from the hatred that was aimed at the Minister either.

“My daughter was hemmed in a restaurant here in Waterford by some of the Pro-Lifers. Now they are not all like that but some of them were really outrageous abusing you, really shouting abuse at you.

“My mother was dead, and they were sending me things like ‘If your mother could come up from the grave, what would she think of you now?’ Some of the stuff was appalling.”

Minister Halligan has spent nearly 30 years representing the public, nine of which were in the Dáil. He is now 65 and at retirement age. These were all factors in his decision.

The abuse received online and in-person also played a big factor and the Minister has cautionary words for those who follow in his footsteps.

“Eventually, I think it may do damage to a person if they are not strong enough. They really have to do something about social media.

“I can guarantee you this, whoever is in government next time – and there will be four representing this constituency, some will have to go into government. They are going to experience the same.

“They are going to get a whole heap of abuse down on top of them and they will have to deal with it or they will have to walk away from it.”

Minister Halligan admitted he is content walking away from politics, he feels he has done enough for Waterford and the fruits of some of his labour will be there for all to see.

“I was the first to put the cath lab on the agenda and get it into Government. The cath lab is being built; it’s gone into planning. It will start development in July.

“When I went into the programme for Government, Minister Shane Ross and I said ‘no matter what happens you will not close down Waterford Airport,’ and they did not.

“We got emergency funding for the airport. We got funding then there were no planes flying.

“I think you are going to find bulldozers out there next July digging the runway. We will have a jet flying into Waterford Airport.”

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