Two men apologise for mocking murder of Michaela McAreavey

Footage of ‘vile chant’ understood to have been filmed at Orange hall in Dundonald, Co Down

Two men who said they were involved in “the broadcasting and singing of a vile chant” relating to the murdered schoolteacher Michaela McAreavey have apologised for their actions.

In a statement on Friday, John Bell and Andrew McDade said it was “a matter of deep shame and regret” that they became involved in a social media broadcast “which included the singing of an offensive, vile and wholly abhorrent chant about the deceased Michaela McAreavey.”

The Orange Order has launched an investigation and the PSNI has said police are “aware of the video posted online and are examining the content to determine if any offences may have been committed.”

Linfield FC in Belfast has ended its voluntary association with a coach at its girls’ academy who the club said could be “clearly identified” in the “deeply offensive” video.

The club condemned the “offensive, sickening and deeply hurtful and insulting chanting that is taking place on the online video” and apologised to the McAreavey and Harte families.

The Craigavon-based construction supplier Norman Emerson Group said it had been made aware of “highly offensive social media content allegedly made by one of its employees” and a “full and thorough internal investigation” was underway.

There has been widespread condemnation of the video posted on social media which appears to show a group of people singing a song mocking Ms McAreavey’s murder.

It is understood the video was filmed in an Orange hall in Dundonald, Co Down. The Orange Order has said if any of those involved in the video are found to be members of the institution they will face disciplinary proceedings.

Senior members of the Orange Order are said to be “utterly disgusted” by the contents of the video.

Ms McAreavy, a 27-year-old teacher from Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, was murdered while on honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011.

The daughter of then manager of the Tyrone senior Gaelic football team, Mickey Harte, she was strangled in her hotel room in Mauritius while on honeymoon with her husband John. She was attacked after she returned to their room alone and disturbed a burglary.

No one has been convicted of her murder.

In a statement on Friday, a spokesman for the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said the video was “utterly abhorrent and the Orange Institution condemns the content without reservation.

“The behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation,” the spokesman said.

The men said their actions were “not representative of who we are as people” and was “unreflective of the values of the Loyal Orders and the wider unionist and loyalist community.”

In their statement issued through JWB Consultancy - the firm owned by loyalist commentator and blogger Jamie Bryson - Mr Bell and Mr McDade offered an “unequivocal” apology to the McAreavey and Harte families and said they intended to write a formal letter of apology and to make a donation to a charity of their choice.

The men said their actions were “not representative of who we are as people” and was “unreflective of the values of the Loyal Orders and the wider unionist and loyalist community.”

They also said members of their families and friends had received online threats and abuse as a result of their actions.

The video was condemned by politicians from across the North’s political divide on Friday, and a number said they had referred the contents of the video to the police.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “appalled and horrified” at the video, while the Northern Secretary, Brandon Lewis, said the video was “reprehensible” and those involved “have no support from Northern Ireland’s communities”.

The MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew, said she had reported it to the PSNI and would “be taking further action.”

“A beautiful young woman was murdered on honeymoon and this is how loyalists ‘celebrate’ the Queen’s jubilee,” she said on social media.

This gratuitous sectarian hatred is a cancer in our society that needs rooted out.

—  Naomi Long

Alliance leader and Minister for Justice Naomi Long said she had raised the contents of the video with the North’s Chief Constable and intended to speak to the Orange Order.

“Having seen the utterly vile and depraved video of those revelling in the murder of Michaela McAreavey, I feel sick,” she said. “This gratuitous sectarian hatred is a cancer in our society that needs rooted out.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson described the video as “vile” and said it was “plain wrong and is deeply hurtful to the family of Michaela McAreavey.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he was “sickened by the video of a [Northern Ireland] centenary event being used to mock the murder of Michaela McAreavey” and described it was “absolutely abhorrent, disgusting and shameful.”

He said: “Those involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves as should those who sat, listened and cheered.”

Mr Beattie said his thoughts were with the McAreavey and Harte families and he assured them those involved were “a minority and the overwhelming majority of unionists will find this as deeply disgusting as I do.”

The Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister said the video was “beyond disgusting” and brought “shame and dishonour on all associated with such loathsome behaviour.”

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the video was “absolutely sick.”

The Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill said she had spoken to Ms McAreavey’s husband John to “offer solidarity to both the McAreavey and Harte families”.

“Hate and sectarianism have no place in our society,” she said on social media. “People deserve better. Love over hate will always win out.”

Speaking in Dublin on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said everyone remembered the “horrific murder of Michaela McAreavey”.

“It’s beyond comprehension that people could behave in that manner and be so indifferent to the trauma that the family suffered, her entire family and indeed her community.

“I think it speaks to a sectarianism and a degree of malice and hate in society that needs to be dealt with and, you know, those involved in that should apologise in the first instance and the entire community and those involved should reflect very strongly on that,” he said.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times