A NEWLY elected councillor has vowed she will ‘not be intimidated into silence’ after receiving ‘vile’ hate mail just 72 hours after winning a seat on Ards and North Down Council.
Ulster Unionist Linzi McLaren’s polling day victory joy turned into heartbreak when she was accused of exploiting the deaths of two of her children for political gain in an anonymous letter sent to her home.
A retired police officer and single mother of four, the ‘vindictive’ letter went on to criticise the Holywood and Clandeboye councillor for ‘being a bad mother’ and neglecting her children to run a political campaign.
Ms McLaren has decided to speak out to ‘send a signal’ to anyone who would consider sending such horrendous messages that they had ‘crossed into criminality and hate crime’.
With police now investigating the incident, Ms McLaren said she has been buoyed by the thousands of messages of support she has received from across the political spectrum, including North Down MP Stephen Farry and former DUP leader Edwin Poots.
She said: “I wanted to put out a strong message that they are not going to do this, they are not going to intimidate me into silence. Whether it is my stance on the union, I want to make it clear I won’t be stopped from campaigning and any personal attack on myself will not be tolerated.”
Ms McLaren spoke of her recent decision to campaign for better peri-natal resources for mothers following the tragic loss of her two sons.
“My first son died in a cot death and I had to deliver my second son mid-term,” she explained.
“Very recently I did an article about how peri-natal resources had not improved from the time my first son died to the time my second son died. I was lobbying for more resources and to raise awareness.”
The dedicated mum spoke of her shock at being vilified for her heartbreaking loss. “The letter basically said how disgusting I was, using my sob stories and the death of my children for votes.”
She said: “People can forget that behind a public person is a person with personal circumstances and tragedies. What happened yesterday when I received the letter crossed the line into criminality and hate crime.”
Linzi also spoke of her concern that her personal security had been breached saying: “The letter was sent to my home address. My concern was that I am a retired police officer. I made the conscious decision on my leaflets and on my profile to state this.
“This was because everybody talks about their previous life experience and that is where I got mine. It also means that I can talk about policing issues with a bit of knowledge.
“However I am really protective about my address and as a consequence when I was filling in my paperwork for being elected I asked for my address to be completely confidential. The fact that the letter arrived at my door is really concerning.”
She spoke of the online and written abuse that many politicians and people from all walks of life receive. “Some of it can be really personal, creepy and vindictive. I don’t want to have to live with that for the rest of my political career, I am only 72 hours in.
“Yesterday I was sitting crying all day. I didn’t want to tell the children that the letter had come to our home as this is their safe place too.”
She has welcomed the cross-community support she has received at this difficult time. “I have had fantastic community support. I have always been an advocate for cross-community work, religion is not and never will be the essence of politics.
“I always made it clear that I want to be inclusive and work for the betterment of all constituents regardless of their background. It has been really heartwarming to receive messages of support from Stephen Farry, Edwin Poots and the SDLP.
Linzi is determined she will not be deterred from carrying out the duties she has been elected to do saying: “I am already working hard, dealing with planning objections, I am going out to help clean up a Conlig play park and I will be meeting with the Helen’s Bay residents’ group.
“ I don’t want this to define me, I want to show people that it won’t deter me from doing my community work.”