Shropshire Star

Mayor slams online 'bullies' as councillors back her stance against town's social media 'trolls'

The Mayor of Bridgnorth has slammed social media "bullies" in the town after receiving online abuse after taking up the chains of office.

Councillor Rachel Connolly was made Mayor of Bridgnorth in April

Councillor Rachel Connolly took on the role in April this year, but said after doing so it was not long before she was targeted on social media.

And she is not the first mayor of Bridgnorth to have suffered at the hands of online trolls, as one of her predecessors is calling for people to back the town's mayor and stamp out the abuse.

Councillor Connolly, who as well as being Mayor at Bridgnorth Town Council also represents the town on Shropshire Council for the Labour Party, said this week: "As a parent to two, now adult daughters, I thought I had successfully steered them through the potential unpleasant pitfalls of social media and the online world.

"Since I have become a councillor, I unfortunately realised that the unpleasantness is not just the domain of teenagers

"Over the recent weeks several social media posts have referred to myself and other town councillors as ‘thieves’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘taking backhanders’."

The mayor said while it is "correct and laudable" that in a democracy there should be disagreement, it should be "civil and respectful".

She added: "I am aware that those who repeatedly make negative comments and abuse others via social media are known as trolls. I prefer to use a more old-fashioned word for them: bullies."

Some of the posts targeting Councillor Connolly were reported and removed by social media platforms, but she said the problem was affecting all councillors.

"There are far more people who will appreciate those who volunteer, contribute and support our local community than those who snipe and criticise from the side-lines," she said. "It is a message I intend to follow myself, even though it can be difficult at times when you look at what people feel they can say online."

Kirstie Hurst-Knight was mayor in 2020/2021

Kirstie Hurst-Knight, a former Bridgnorth mayor and Shropshire councillor for the Conservative Party, has said she too suffered abuse online when she was in office in 2020/21.

She said: "All mayors in Bridgnorth have had it over the years. These are adults doing it and they are not people from elsewhere, it is people from Bridgnorth.

"People genuinely think they know better and it is so easy to write what you want without any accountability. It is vindictive social media comments, often from anonymous accounts, who seem to have the mentality that it is okay to abuse people. It is never okay."

She said the position of mayor in the town is one that should be respected.

"As a mayor we have all got a year to do your best and it is not an easy task. We would not be doing what we do if we didn't care about the town. We just want the best for Bridgnorth. But I think it is a sad thing we get abuse for it."

She continued: "I imagine Rachel came into local politics to do some good. Politically, we are worlds apart, but we have to get behind our mayor and support her. You have to respect the position in the town."