At 10:39 AM, on the 18th of October, 2022, Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington reposted a tweet by the right-wing news organisation GB News. The caption of the GB News tweet read as follows: "Political commentator Eva Vlaardingerbroek says young girls are being sacrificed on the altar of mass immigration." This original tweet was in response to the horrifying story of a young girl who had been murdered and put into a box in Paris.
Harrington retweeted this post with the following caption: "Very Very Sad. A powerful message from Eva Vlaardingerbroek. Our own leaders need to take a listen. She believes that this is the 12th girl in France that has been killed by an immigrant…and that's just France." The tweet was deleted in the blink of an eye.
Then Monday, March 27th, arrived. In a tense interview on Off the Ball AM, she was repeatedly asked about her stance on immigration. She refused to answer, later saying she was "caught off guard" by the question.
Presenter Shane Hannon asked Harrington to clarify her "strongly held views on immigration." "In your position as a role model, those comments carry weight," he added. She then accused him of "hanging me out to dry" and requested that the interview move on to a different topic before his time at the table ended.
You could hear the Spar PR worker's blood drain from their face as they watched what was unfolding before their eyes. This was confirmed when the voice of said Spar PR worker interjected multiple times throughout the interview, insisting that Hannon move on, each plea more demanding than the last, yet Hannon persisted.
The athlete argued that it had been six months since she had retweeted the video and asked Hannon to "move on" from the controversy. Knowing she was on the ropes, Harrington referred to the character from the child's movie Frozen; Harrington told Hannon: "Be like Elsa and just let it go."
"It's my job to ask questions," Hannon replied, and he pointed out that she came on the show to discuss her role as a community ambassador for a supermarket chain, adding that "I'm not here to talk about politics."
In a public statement released on her Twitter account following the interview, she said she knew that as a "sporting role model," she had to be mindful of "what I say and do."
"How this comes across is not reflective of me as a person or my thoughts." She added that she was "all about community, inclusion and diversity".
The public statement had the punching power of Brian Sutherland.
Yet the dance was not over. After the interview was posted on social media, lines were drawn, and factions fought for the perceived good—a phenomenon that has become all too familiar in Irish society. Suppose you were to believe the defenders of Harrington's viewpoint. In that case, you'd think she was of the opinion that she was willingly to openly discuss this country's immigration policy as opposed to pinning the blame of a tragic death upon immigrants entering a nation.
And if you were to be in Camp Hannon, you’d be of the opinion that Kellie Harrington should be stripped of all titles, tarred and feathered and be socially ostracized forevermore. Both views are incorrect.
The only truth in this matter is that everyone loses. Marketing companies across the globe probably perceive Harrington's endorsement as toxic. Her perception in the public eye has now changed drastically.
Harrington has been ambiguous with her answers about turning professional but could find herself being shoved in the door of professional boxing as the question marks hovering around boxing being a part of the 2024 Olympics grow ever larger.
But what about Shane Hannon? He was on the good side, no? Yes, he did the right thing as a journalist, but the questions you ask as a journalist have consequences. Hannon's old Facebook posts of him using outdated and offensive words aged 16 haunt him. With every post he makes on social media, screenshots of those old posts soon follow suit. His Twitter page is plastered with questions demanding answers for his take on murders by foreign nationals across the world.
If Kellie Harrington doesn't want to be asked questions on politics or immigration, she should not voice her political opinions on the internet, because sometimes, the next question won't cut it.