The outgoing pro-life president of Young Fine Gael has revealed how he resorted to self-harming after coming in for a barrage of criticism for attending a conservative political event in the US.
Killian Foley-Walsh (25) – whose term came to an end at the weekend – told delegates at the party’s youth conference about sustained attacks after he and another pro-life member of the party attended the Young America’s Foundation’s annual conference.
Senior figures within Fine Gael including then MEP candidate Maria Walsh called for Mr Foley-Walsh to resign over attending the conference, which describes itself as a conservative youth movement.
Both he and Chloe Kennedy were also relentlessly criticised in the media with a columnist with the Irish Times saying he needed to “shut up and listen”.
Mr Foley-Walsh told the weekend gathering about the heavy toll the onslaught has taken on his mental health. Revealing self-harm he said “I have been upset: it’s been a tough couple of months – and I did these things to myself, and it’s wrong and it’s stupid. And I wish I didn’t – and the people around me wish I didn’t”.
He appealed to delegates – which included Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – “the next time, perhaps, you see somebody being torn asunder; the next time you see somebody being ridiculed; the next time you see somebody – by all accounts a stranger – being absolutely demolished by hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions, of strangers – consider before you join in, because in all of that stuff there’s flesh and blood there”.
Mr Foley-Walsh – a practising Catholic – also told the conference: “I’ll be fine, thank God.”
After the speech, many people took to social media to commend Mr Foley-Walsh for his bravery and courage in highlighting the effects of the abuse he suffered.
He told The Irish Catholic this week that he is “greatly heartened” by the reaction to the speech and said he hopes it will “help the discourse in this country return to normal”.