Sunderland councillor driven to point of suicide after Facebook IRA row ‘witch hunt’

Coun Florence Anderson
Coun Florence Anderson

Florence Anderson today opened her heart to the Echo and told how a Facebook controversy almost drove her to suicide.

The former deputy leader of Sunderland City Council made national headlines when it was claimed she “liked” an appeal on Facebook calling for the IRA to bomb a Conservative conference

The Hetton councillor was criticised for her actions.

But speaking to the Echo, Coun Anderson said the vitriol and hatred she has received have left her shocked and wondering if the abuse would only stop if she was dead.

She said: “I have been appalled at the reaction to me. The way I have been witch-hunted and dragged through the mud has been disgraceful.

“I have been accused of supporting terrorism and I think it is grossly unfair. These people don’t know me and I always say let he or she who is without sin throw the first stone.

“The incident was an alleged “like” almost two years ago and I can’t even remember doing it, especially as I do hundreds of likes all the time.

“When it was brought to my attention I could not understand how anyone could take it seriously because of course, it was not meant literally.”

“The whole experience has really shocked me and left me feeling physically sick. It has nearly taken my life and it has definitely taken my political life.

“At some points I have felt suicidal and I thought I wanted my life to end. I keep asking myself why me? If everyone’s “likes” were examined where would we be?

“I’ve had Sky News, the Daily Mail and all sorts on my door step just for one click of a mouse.

“Someone once called my house and said I should be taken to the Tower of London and executed for treason.

“I have received some really filthy emails and I think it’s all part of whipping me up into a person of hate. I have had no justice at all.”

Anderson, who has been a member of the Labour Party for over 40 years, was suspended by party officials in February.

At the time a statement from Labour said they regarded her actions as “disgraceful” and that she was suspended “with immediate effect in light of this information”.

But she says even after everything that has happened, she won’t stop speaking her mind and standing up for what she believes in.

“Even after this I will always speak out and even though my Labour membership is out of my hands they will never take away my voice,” she said.

“I have had support from people throughout the country from Labour members and trade union members and that has kept me going.

“Otherwise I think it would have taken my life and I sometimes wonder if the people who pour out their venom on me wouldn’t stop until I was dead.”

“On Facebook I do not represent the council or the Labour Party I just represent myself. On Facebook there is often banter and poking fun and many of my friends are Tories.

“I believe in open and honest debate, I can give and take but there’s been a great injustice done to me - my reputation has been torn to shreds.

“People who are condemning me should look at their own values as they have decided I am guilty without any evidence.”

Twitter: @tomwhite7