Mixed race ‘Lidl family’ forced to flee Ireland for UK after online racist campaign

Fiona Ryan and Jonathan Mathis were targeted after appearing 
in a Lidl Ireland commercial with their 22-month son

Mixed race family in Lidl ad say racist campaign has forced them to flee Ireland for UK

A mixed-race couple from County Meath say they have been forced to leave Ireland after receiving abuse online and even death threats against their toddler son after appearing in Lidl ad.

Fiona Ryan, 33, and her partner Jonathan Mathis, 32, have been targeted by abuse since they appeared in an ad campaign for the supermarket chain along with their 22-month-old son.

They were the special guests on last Friday night’s Late Late Show on RTE.

The family’s inclusion in the ads, which began appearing on billboards and TV in Ireland in early September, saw the couple targeted in an online campaign to boycott Lidl.

A former national newspaper journalist known for advocating conspiracy theories, who has helped orchestrate the campaign, has been blocked by the supermarket giant.

Fiona and Jonathan revealed they are moving to England after receiving abusive and racist comments online – including a death threat directed at their toddler.

Fiona said they had been the targets of abuse on Twitter and Facebook.

She told presenter Ryan Tubridy: “They are talking about harming and death to my partner and my child so I am not going to stay in a country [where] this is allowed.”

Mr Mathis is originally from Brazil and grew up in England, in Liverpool and the Cotswolds before moving to Ireland with Fiona.

He said he has been the object of hateful comments because of his skin colour for so much of his life it had begun to seem normal.

But he was disgusted to see the reaction to the advertisement.

“I got so upset and angry at the same time. These people are looking at my child and saying all this hurtful stuff. He’s a completely innocent child.”

Earlier Taoiseach Leo Varadkar condemned the on-line abuse campaign saying: “I think any online abuse, particularly abuse that is you know, sexist, or, or racially motivated, is disgusting, and I condemn it unreservedly.

“I think it only reflects a very small minority of people in the country. Unfortunately, people go online to say and do things that they wouldn’t say in public.”

He said his government is working on new anti-hate legislation: “It’s always a difficult one to get right, because you never want to be in a position where you’re stifling free speech, and one person’s hate speeches is another person’s free speech.

 “But it’s the kind of thing you have to get right and it’s very hard to define what is hate speech. If it’s incitement to violence, it’s very clear. But beyond that, it’s less clear.”

But the Irish Council for Civil Liberties called for a much more urgent review of the 1989 Incitement to Hatred Act saying the family’s experience “corresponds to evidence” and that current legislation is “not fit for purpose”.

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