Female politicians have recounted abuse including being spat at and having coins thrown at them, as well as an incident involving an election poster being displayed in a graveyard.

In an interview on RTÉ's Late Late Show, Neasa Hourigan, Green Party TD for Dublin Central, said she had been spat on more than once, had coins thrown at her head, had been threatened on the Luas, had photos of her car and house and children taken and put online, as well as being followed down the street.

She described these instances as "occasional" but said that there was a constant "dark hum" of abuse on social media.

Ms Hourigan said the spitting first happened from protesters at a council meeting.

She said that being quiet about the abuse has not worked, adding that councillors do not have the same protection.

"I’m tough enough for any job but that still doesn’t make abuse okay. Criticism of policy is fine as long as it’s not a personal attack but we’ve very much accepted that personal attacks in the course of debate are normal," she said.

Holly Cairns, Social Democrat TD for Cork South-West, said that there was a reluctance to come forward.

She said there is a fear of being pigeon-holed as a victim or weak, which she said is something to avoid in politics.

However, she said she came to the realisation that if female politicians do not talk about the issue, it will be impossible to identify why it is happening and where it is coming from to find a solution to address it.

She said abuse comes in many different forms.

For Ms Cairns, it began in the local elections in 2019 when a poster was taken down and nailed to a tree upside down in a graveyard.

She also experienced online abuse while on the council and while being a TD.

"I wasn't prepared for the kind of level of it," she said.

She said abuse came publicly online, through private messages, letters in the post, voice notes on WhatsApp or Instagram or inappropriate questions into Q&As.

Ms Cairns said that at first she said it did not bother her but when someone turned up at her home on several occasions, she began to feel that someone who previously sent those messages could be next to show up at the door.

Abuse is a problem for both men and women, but Ireland has not examined the different nature of abuse that comes at politicians and need to be addressed in different ways, she said.

Ms Cairns added that abuse is often sexualised when it comes to women.

In recent times, she has had to get a new lock for the door, blinds, install CCTV, and not have a traditional constituency clinic due to safety risks.

Ms Hourigan said she wears a hat and mask to disguise herself leaving the house.

"That politics of hate and outrage, that's a political tactic to silence people and make you less willing to talk out," Ms Hourigan said.

Ms Hourigan added that the Oireachtas provides a list on how to protect yourself, but she was already doing most of those things

Female politicians often have to operate in a way that other politicians do not, she said.

She added that she always has a male staff member present when she has a constituency clinic, adding that it was frustrating.

She called for a change of culture rather than restraints on women.

"If we don’t do that there’s no real protections that’s going to stop someone who has set themselves on doing something," she said.

She said she found the gardaí to be very responsive and knowledgeable when she had photos of her home put up on Facebook, but said technology companies need to take the matter more seriously as they are having a malign influence on politics throughout the world.

There are already a number of barriers for women entering politics already such as childcare, lower incomes and time.

She said with the level of abuse, she finds it difficult to recommend to a woman to get into politics even if she feels that woman would be a good politician.