I'm a Celeb: Abusing Nadine Coyle because of her accent a form of racism, says NI academic
The online abuse fired at Londonderry-born Nadine Coyle over her accent has been described as a form of racism by a leading linguistic expert.
The former Girls Aloud singer announced earlier this week she would be among the contestants for this year's I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! but she has been the focus for keyboard warriors complaining about her Derry accent.
Ex-MLA and fellow Derry native Eamonn McCann was so incensed by the vitriol he witnessed on Twitter that he suggested those criticising Nadine for her accent should "f*** away off, the lot of ye".
Mr McCann said: "I came across some of the stuff on social media and then saw the deluge of hostility and bile that was being poured on her that was out of proportion to anything.
"I thought to myself, if this is what they are like now, they will be like a plague of locusts once this programme starts.
"This woman is a public figure, she is also Nadine Coyle from Derry and as far as I am concerned she is one of our own.
"I think that Derry people should stand up for her and I think this has gone far enough.
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"There has been the odd crack about her Derry accent down through the years but nothing on this scale. This isn't craic, this isn't banter, this is hostility designed to humiliate," he added.
"She is from Derry and she is unapologetic and rightly so but the casual way that people fling about hurtful and disparaging abuse at people like Nadine is outrageous.
"We have seen recently the controversy about online abuse of politicians and others, but just because she is a pop singer, doesn't mean she isn't entitled to the same respect, in fact she is entitled to more respect."
Dr Christine Sevdali, senior lecturer in linguistics at the Ulster University, said attacking anyone for their accent is "unwarranted".
She said: "An accent is part of our linguistic identity. People from Northern Ireland and from Derry in particular have a set of features that define their linguistic identity so that when someone hears them they can identify where they are from.
"In the way brown skin might identify you as being from one part of the world as another so in that sense our linguistic identity is related to our overall identity. If someone is attacked because of their linguistic identity that is a form of racism.
"Language variation exists.
"To attack somebody on that front, apart from it being a terrible thing to do, is unwarranted because there is no such thing as any language without variety."