Former Sinn Féin councillor Sorcha McAnespy tells how 'totally false' rumours left her feeling 'violated'
A former Omagh councillor has told how "totally false" rumours being circulated about her have left her feeling "violated, hurt and scared".
Sorcha McAnespy, a former Sinn Féin councillor and briefly a Fianna Fail election candidate, said she has had to go for counselling "to get support and learn coping mechanisms" as a result of the rumours.
The mother-of-three said she first became aware of a rumour that she was in a relationship with a high profile figure from Tyrone last month when a friend told her.
"I laughed because it was so ridiculous and thought they were kidding. But then more and more people started to tell me they had heard it as well.
"I was astounded that people actually believed this. Then the rumours got more detailed, more elaborate and more widespread," she told the Ulster Herald.
Ms McAnespy said a friend then showed her "a lewd image of my face photo-shopped onto a disgusting picture, I went straight to the police station. I just felt violated, hurt and scared.
"But the police told me there is not much they can do. This can not be right. How can distorted imagery that has the potential to ruin someone's life be spread far and wide in online groups and nothing can be done about it?"
Well known in Tyrone, Ms McAnespy was elected a Sinn Féin representative in 2011 but quit the party in 2016 amid accusations of "nepotism and misogyny".
Last year, she was unofficially unveiled as a Fianna Fáil's first candidate in Northern Ireland.
However, Fianna Fáil headquarters said "no decision" had been made.
Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív and Senator Mark Daly were later sacked from senior positions in Fianna Fáil for their involvement in the ‘rogue’ launch.
Ms McAnespy said she felt she had to speak out in the hope it would "put an end" to the "totally false" rumours.
"The reality is I don't feel safe but this is not just affecting me," she said.
"My parents are hearing these things as well. I have a young family and don't want this coming back to my daughters.
"If it wasn't for the support of family and friends, I don't know what I would do".