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'I am a victim of anti-Irish racism,' says Scots writer

THE female journalist at the centre of an online hate campaign over her role in editing a book charting Rangers football club's financial implosion has spoken for the first time about her relief now that her "troll" has been jailed, claiming the abuse was motivated by 'anti-Irish racism'.

Journalist Angela Haggerty said she felt  isolated and targeted  after receiving the online abusePhotograph: Stewart Attwood
Journalist Angela Haggerty said she felt isolated and targeted after receiving the online abusePhotograph: Stewart Attwood

David Limond, brother of television comic Brian "Limmy" Limond, was sentenced to six months in prison at Ayr Sheriff Court last week after broadcasting a tirade of abuse against reporter Angela Haggerty, 27, and encouraging his Twitter followers to harass and "hit her with all you've got" in a pro-Rangers podcast he uploaded on September 20, 2012.

Sheriff Scott Pattison said the outburst was "not only vile, it was racist and religious".

It came weeks after the publication of Downfall: How Rangers FC Self-Destructed by Irish-based Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and the controversial decision of the Scottish Sun to scrap its planned serialisation of the book amid fears of a backlash from Ibrox supporters.

Limond's "Taig of the Day" podcast, which branded her a "Provo c***" and broadcast Haggerty's Twitter handle, prompted an outpouring of venom from online trolls within minutes of airing online.

"It was out of the blue for me," said Haggerty, who admits the ordeal left her afraid for her safety. "I was vaguely aware of [Limond's] Twitter handle from things people were retweeting or replying to, but that was it. I had certainly never interacted with him before or had any reason to.

"So it came out of the blue when I received a tweet on the night of the podcast and it wasn't difficult to trace back where all that was coming from.

"Suddenly about 9pm I just got a stream of tweets coming through, all saying the same sorts of things, and one of them copied his twitter handle into it.

"It was vicious. You suddenly feel very isolated and targeted, that there is a group of people out there that have a genuine hatred for you and that's quite intimidating. Downfall was the first real professional work I had done and I was really proud of it, and really excited about it, so to suddenly have all this was a shock to the system."

Haggerty said she had dreaded a not guilty verdict in the trial knowing it that would ramp up the hatred by seemingly vindicating Limond and supporters, but admitted that even after he was found guilty, many refused to back down.

"They responded bizarrely and continued to call me names ... then called anyone who replied to them 'Fenians', so it was as if the verdict and the sentencing hadn't deterred some of them. "There was even a 'Free Limmy' hashtag going around at one point as if people think there's been some great injustice done to him and I've played the victim card." Haggerty, who has worked as a reporter at media and business news website The Drum for less than a year, said that while the abuse carried an undercurrent of sexism the overwhelming tone was anti-Irish racism.

She said: "There's a lot of misogny in the abuse, a lot of stuff directed at me that men wouldn't get.

"But Limond's 'Taig of the Day' podcast was a regular feature and he attacked men as well. So while I think there is a gender element to it, the 'Taig of the Day' term was a very specific word and he didn't seem to have any gender discrimination on who he featured.

"There's a reluctance in Scotland to talk about anti-Irish racism - everything gets lumped under the sectarian banner when it's not actually tackling the problem. I know this was a podcast called 'Rangers chat', but this wasn't about Celtic or Rangers. I don't think anything in that podcast was related to football other than the fact I'd edited the book on Rangers. It was about how I looked, it was about my religion, it was about my ethnic background - those kinds of things."

Haggerty, who is descended from Irish immigrants to Scotland on both sides of her family, says she considers herself Scots-Irish in the same way as Scots-Italians or Scots-Pakistanis embrace their ethnic and cultural heritage.

But she adds she has also faced criticism from Celtic fans when covering news stories they perceive as negative to the Parkhead club.

"There's that kneejerk reaction - 'I thought you were a good journalist' and you just think, for crying out loud? In Glasgow, the tabloids in particular are very reliant on their football audience, so they're very unlikely to want to rock the boat.

"The same ... culture goes on as much at Celtic as it does Rangers - at the Celtic AGM you'll see the same journalists popping up and asking easy questions, so there could be as much of a disservice done, potentially, to Celtic fans as has been done at Rangers. There is a problem within the media and it's not about the media being pro-Celtic or pro-Rangers, it's not black and white like that, it's commercial."

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