A mixed-race couple who appeared in a Lidl advert have fled Ireland after a death threat was made against them and their one-year-old child.
Fiona Ryan, 33, and fiancé Jonathan Mathis, 32, were hit with vile racist abuse online after appearing on TV and billboards with their 22-month-old son.
The Lidl campaign, which began appearing in early September, was criticised on Twitter by an anti-immigration activist for showing a ‘multicultural version’ of an Irish family.
Former journalist Gemma O’Doherty wrote: ‘German dump @lidl_ireland gaslighting the Irish people with their multicultural version of ‘The Ryans’. Kidding no-one! Resist the Great Replacement wherever you can by giving this kip a wide berth. #ShopIrish #BuyIrish.’
A number of people then inundated the family with racist and offensive comments which said white people were being ‘replaced’, claimed the ad promoted ‘race/ancestor betrayal’ and compared the ‘IQ of central Africans [with] the IQ of mentally disabled’.
Others used the n-word and called for a boycott of Lidl.
After the couple reported it to Garda, they were allegedly told it was a civil matter.
But after taking advice from the European Network Against Racism Ireland (Enar), they filed a report and have had a meeting with an investigating officer.
After deciding they lived in a country which failed to enact robust hate-crime legislation, the couple – who met in London seven years ago – have decided to move from their home in County Meath and return to England.
Ms Ryan told RTE she was shocked by the ‘harrowing’ comments they’d received online, which made her break down in tears and fear for her young son’s safety.
She said: ‘I was so shaken I broke down in tears. It was the last straw and, yes, we decided we really need to lay low, to leave.
‘We booked flights. We just thought, could they actually find us if we stay where we are?’
She continued: ‘When I read through them all I kind of feared for my safety, for my son’s safety straightaway.
‘It was pretty harrowing to have to read through all that and I don’t think anybody should be subjected to that kind of online abuse.’
Mr Mathis, who grew up in Liverpool and the Cotswolds, said: ‘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.’
He added that racist abuse had been ‘a theme throughout my life’, saying: ‘These people don’t care, they are filled with hate and ignorance.’
The couple are now advocating for tougher regulation of social media platforms.
After the family was targeted online, Lidl released a statement that read: ‘After offensive and racist tweets from Gemma O’Doherty we have decided to block and report her to Twitter.
‘We are proud of our multicultural & diverse team and our customers. We are proud to work with, and serve, each and every one of them. Everyone is welcome in our store.
‘We are contacting the Ryan family regarding this online abuse and will be providing support after this unprovoked attack. We thank everyone for their kind words.’
After being contacted by Metro.co.uk, Garda declined to comment on the case.