DUP minister Nelson McCausland's posting led to death threats, says Alliance man Gary Spedding
Police are investigating death threats to an Alliance Party activist after a picture of him holding an Irish tricolour at a St Patrick's Day event was posted by a DUP minister on his blog.
Gary Spedding said Nelson McCausland lifted a photograph from the celebration in Newcastle Upon Tyne earlier this year from his personal Facebook page.
The image appeared on Mr McCausland's blog, The Minister's Pen, with a note claiming that Mr Spedding "prefers to fly the flag of Irish nationalism".
The image and text was subsequently reposted on loyalist Facebook pages, prompting a series of threatening comments.
One suggested Mr Spedding, a 24-year-old student, should be shot in the back of the head. Another said his card was "well marked".
There is no suggestion that Mr McCausland was involved, or even aware that the image had been reposted on another site. "As someone who has received physical threats, I condemn violence or threats of violence against anyone. They are to be deplored," he said.
But he added: "No one should have to deal with threats of violence, but public life requires a thick skin to absorb legitimate criticism."
Mr Spedding questioned the wisdom of the DUP minister drawing attention to the issue in the first place. "I received death threats as a direct result of Nelson McCausland's blog and misappropriation of my image," he said.
"He should be held accountable for this grievous negligence."
On his blog entry, titled "An Alliance activist with his Irish tricolour", Mr McCausland wrote: "Here is a picture of an Alliance Party activist on St Patrick's Day – mouth open, eyes agog and clutching his little tricolour. His name is Gary Spedding."
Mr Spedding said his view that Northern Ireland was better off as part of the UK was well-known.
"He ignores all of this and published an attack blog which insulted me personally as well as politically," he added.
The PSNI confirmed a complaint had been received and enquiries are continuing.