Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte has said she is afraid to make public appearances since an incident in early January when a bag of excrement was flung at her.

Ms Rabbitte, who is the Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, told RTÉ's This Week that she has now curtailed her public appearances.

"I want to focus on the job at hand ... I don't want to be derailed, defocused," she said, adding that "it does get in on you".

Speaking for the first time about the impact of an incident in early January when a bag of excrement was thrown at her and another TD during a public meeting in Galway, she said "I was actually mortified beyond belief.

"I just wished to God the ground could open and swallow me at that precise moment in time."

Asked if she had been subject to further abuse since then, Ms Rabbitte said: "Absolutely. It never stops. Last Thursday was the first bit of TV I've done since. I'm still picking up the pieces on that one."

She added that it happens every time she does a public appearance or media interview.

Ms Rabbitte said when she invited to a public event she now rings ahead to understand the running order.

"You're always looking over your shoulder. You shouldn't have to."

She added: "In the past I wouldn't have given a second thought to it.

"Since January I think of every move. I plan my moves and I don't do anything off-the-cuff anymore. The same way with radio or TV, I've reduced those as well."

She also spoke about the relentless nature of abuse and insults she faces as a female TD.

"It's continuous, it's relentless and it's tiring," she said, adding that she is regularly called a "complete liar".

"There's the criticism about how you look, your weight, what you wear, your dress and how you speak. It's never about the issue. It's always about your contributions," she said.

"But when men get abuse, they just get it on the facts of the issue being discussed," Ms Rabbitte said.

She said as a Minister of State she believes she needs to make media appearances but a break is needed now and again because of the criticism that comes with it.

"I genuinely do believe I need to be out more on TV and radio, talking about the matters of disabilities. But sometimes you just need to take a break to actually regroup again," she said.

She said the dynamic has changed in the past few years and spoke about the fear she now has.

Deputy Rabbitte said the throw away comments she gets online are "very hurtful".

"Some people say well why don't you just walk away from Twitter? Why do you keep doing this to yourself?

"I can't walk away from Twitter because there's genuine people on Twitter who feel in the disability community that it's the only place someone might listen to them. So I watch it to see what's going on."

Ms Rabbitte said she will contest the next election but the January incident made her ask questions.

"On that night back in January there was a couple of moments that I queried myself as to why I do this. That's the first time ever in my political career that I would have doubted myself."

Ms Rabbitte said social media companies need to do more to tackle online abuse.

"I genuinely thought with the change of ownership of Twitter that anything that has a flower or a ladybird profile, those faceless Twitter handles would be removed. I think we need to do that and have transparency," she said.

She added that having two or three offices in a constituency is no longer possible.

"It's getting to the stage where we have to consolidate as to how we run our businesses because I also have staff that need to be protected and they can't be left alone either," Ms Rabbitte said.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said she commends Ms Rabbitte for speaking "so openly and frankly" about the incident in early January when a bag of excrement was flung at her.

Speaking on This Week, she said hearing her speak about the "dreadful" impact it has had on her is "really admirable".

She added: "It does illustrate very starkly the reality that is being endured by so many public representatives around the country, TDs and Senators and indeed councillors as well."

Ms Bacik said Ms Rabbitte's description of how she now has to plan her public appearances is "chilling".

She said women in particular in politics are subjected to this sort of online abuse but also in person.

She said often the apppearance of women can be the focus instead of "what we are actually saying".

Ms Bacik said she has always encouraged women to enter politics and "part of this very gendered experience that we are having is because there are so few of us".

The Labour leader said she welcomes that the Ceann Comhairle is convening a meeting of female TDs and Senators this week.