Belfast Telegraph

Irish police identifying trolls who forced couple to flee home

Abuse: Fiona Ryan
Abuse: Fiona Ryan

By Breda Heffernan

Police in the Irish Republic are in the process of identifying individuals who allegedly posted racist abuse online forcing a young family to leave Ireland.

Fiona Ryan, from Co Meath, her fiance Jonathan Mathis, from the Cotswolds in England, and their one-year-old son, Jonah, appeared in a television campaign for supermarket Lidl last month.

However, a number of racist messages were posted on social media about the mixed-race family.

They have since left the country and returned to England after receiving a threat that left them fearing for their lives.

Speaking as he launched the Garda's new diversity and integration strategy in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, Commissioner Drew Harris said gardaí are working to identify those behind the abuse.

"We remain in contact with the Ryan family," he said.

"We are now in the process of identifying individuals, identifying those we believe are suspects of offences that may have been committed.

"And then we will go through a process of interviewing them, gathering evidence and reporting that matter to the DPP.

"There's an investigation ongoing with the outcome of bringing individuals to justice," the former PSNI deputy chief constable added.

The new strategy, for the first time, gives gardai a working definition of what constitutes a 'hate crime'.

It is defined as any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be, in whole or in part, motivated by hostility or prejudice based on age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender.

Non-crime hate incidents - such as name calling - will be recorded on the Garda Pulse computer system.

Mr Harris said: "Individuals can suffer many low-key sorts of incidents.

"It might be name calling on the street and general harassment and we want to be clear what exactly is happening."

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