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BBC's Nolan to go to police over online abuse after GAA pitch invasion coverage

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Stephen Nolan on Radio Ulster

Stephen Nolan on Radio Ulster

Stephen Nolan on Radio Ulster

Broadcaster Stephen Nolan is to report internet trolls to the police after he received a barrage of abuse for covering a story on coronavirus breaches at a GAA game.

Dungannon Clarkes won their first county football title in 64 years at Healy Park in Omagh, defeating Trillick after extra-time on a penalty shoot-out.

There were scenes of jubilation with supporters invading the pitch to celebrate with their team. First Minister Arlene Foster said she was "deeply concerned" and warned Covid-19 is "no respecter of victories".

Ulster GAA also condemned the scenes - which were broadcast on the BBC - saying it put communities at risk and also threatened to put future sporting fixtures behind closed doors.

On Monday morning Mr Nolan opened his Radio Ulster show describing the scenes of supporters and players as "disgraceful", asking what the clubs or GAA were going to do and if supporters should be allowed into sports grounds.

He asked the first and deputy first ministers "what are you going to do about this blatant disregard for our safety?"

On Tuesday Mr Nolan told his listeners the abuse he received after the programme was broadcast had "crossed a line".

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The scenes on the pitch following the Dungannon win. Pic BBC.

The scenes on the pitch following the Dungannon win. Pic BBC.

The scenes on the pitch following the Dungannon win. Pic BBC.

"I do not like using the fact that I've got a bit of money and whatever comes with that to hurt anybody or do anything like it - but I think it has crossed a line so much that unfortunately I do think I'm going to report some people to the police," he said.

"There are a number of people who called for me to be beaten to death yesterday in Dungannon. There were others who were encouraging people to kick my teeth in, hit me over the back of the head and I just think it's gone too far."

Mr Nolan said no matter what abuse he receives, he will continue to ask questions in the public interest.

"Some people are trying to portray this as a nationalist or unionist issue," he said. "It's not.

"If there are breaches of regulations, if there are questions to be asked about why certain people are doing things, those questions apply and are asked on behalf of every community in Northern Ireland," he said.

Later on in the programme, he addressed recent student disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast.

Mr Nolan asked the student community what part they would like to play in saving lives in Northern Ireland, comparing the coronavirus to a bomb sitting in the middle of Belfast.

"Imagine if there was a major bomb ticking in Belfast city centre and the student population could do something to mitigate against the impact of that bomb," he said.

"You'd all be rushing down to do that, I know that. Imagine if there was a bomb outside a care home - we have multiple ticking time bombs outside care homes. The more infection rate there is in our community, the more chance there is of Covid getting into care homes.

"We've got eight or nine months to look after each other, is that really beyond us in Northern Ireland?"

A PSNI spokesperson said: "We do not discuss the security of individuals and no inference should be drawn from this."

A BBC spokesperson said: "Stephen Nolan’s programme is an important and inclusive forum for debate about issues affecting everyday life. Its journalism is impartial and focussed on the public interest – something that’s been reflected in our coverage of issues around the impact of Covid-19, exam results and countless other stories.

"BBC staff shouldn’t be abused for doing their jobs. And our journalists should be able to conduct their work without fear or intimidation. These are basic requirements in a society that values press freedom and democratic debate.

"We take the well-being of our staff extremely seriously, including threats of violence against them."

Belfast Telegraph