‘Inexcusable’ trolling of Upper Bann MLA Carla Lockhart and her DUP party leader Arlene Foster on social media has been universally slammed.
A vicious tirade of nasty slurs were posted online after Mrs Foster posted a selfie of herself and Carla at a party dinner on Friday.
Carla said that while she ‘has become immune’ to the abuse, her family and husband ‘did not appreciate’ the dreadful comments about her personal features.
The DUP MLA said more needs to be done to deal with such abuse on social media, describing it as ‘akin to the Wild West’.
The police have been informed and while many of the trolls took down their comments, Carla has taken screen grabs of the offensive remarks.
“I’m a tough cookie and love the cut and thrust of politics. I have developed an extra layer of thick skin but I feel that I have to stand up as there are so many young people who suffer this abuse in silence,” she said.
“This is not an orange and green issue. It cuts across all political parties and it seems to affect mainly females,” said Carla.
“It is very disappointing,” she said.
Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd was one of the first to support Carla and has described the online abuse suffered by Mrs Lockhart as ‘wrong and inexcusable’.
Mr O’Dowd added: “I disagree with many aspects of Carla’s politics but there is no excuse for the online personal abuse she has suffered.
“The online bullying of Carla and other public representatives particularly women by online trolls must end.”
SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: “Sorry to hear about the nasty, cowardly trolls are at it again attacking Carla Lockhart. It’s time these people were outed and held to account. Knowing Carla she will keep on working hard.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann tweeted: “Online trolling unacceptable at any level and is only encouraged by @Twitter permitting anonymous accounts. Abuse directed at elected representatives and people in the public eye just too easy for big brave key board warriors.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long tweeted: “Just appalling to target @carlalockhart and @DUPleader like this.
“We need @TwitterSupport to put a stop to misogynistic abuse on this platform.”
The PSNI said it was aware of the matter and enquiries were ongoing.