Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

McGuinness TV debate led to death threats for RTE star Miriam O'Callaghan

Miriam O'Callaghan decided to reveal the abuse she received on Twitter after hearing of the threats sent to footballer James McClean

RTE star Miriam O'Callaghan has revealed how she was terrorised by people who sent her messages saying they hoped that she and her children would die after a row with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.

She received the “intimidating, unsettling and frightening” messages on Twitter after her controversial Presidential election debate with the leading republican.

The broadcaster finally decided to reveal the agony she suffered on the social-media website after hearing of the abuse directed at footballer James McClean earlier this week.

The Londonderry-born soccer star has been forced to quit Twitter after receiving death threats in the wake of his call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012.

Ms O'Callaghan told how she had been subjected to threats against her family after questioning Mr McGuinness on the apparent contradiction between his religious beliefs and IRA murders.

“While I have never spoken about this before, I received terrible abuse after my interview with Martin McGuinness,” she said.

“People were tweeting me, saying they hoped I would die and hoped my children would die. Every word was ‘f' and ‘c'.

“It is very intimidating, unsettling and frightening when people are threatening you and your children with death.

“I don't mind people being critical of my programmes — but this crossed the line.

“The tone of the tweets was so nasty, I almost quit Twitter because of the unbelievable level of vitriol and abuse.”

Last night, Stormont Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness condemned the threats received by the mother-of-eight.

The torrent of sick messages was unleashed after she confronted Mr McGuinness during the RTE Prime Time Presidential debate.

The presenter pressed the former IRA chief of staff on the apparent contradiction between his strong Catholic beliefs and the murders committed by the IRA during the Troubles.

She directly asked Mr McGuinness how he could claim to be a man of religion and yet be “involved in the murder of so many people”.

Ms O'Callaghan (51) said that she absolved Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein of any responsibility for the abuse.

“I know that Martin or his team had nothing to do with it, but people felt they were acting on his behalf,” she said.

Mr McGuinness's spokesman said the Deputy First Minister “absolutely” condemned any threats against Ms |O'Callaghan and that the individuals responsible were “as reprehensible as those who targeted James McClean” this week.

A senior Garda officer said gardai could not investigate a threat to Ms O'Callaghan unless she lodged a complaint.

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