Threats against public figures are unacceptable: Michelle O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill has branded threats against public figures in Northern Ireland as unacceptable.

Michelle O'Neill has branded threats against public figures in Northern Ireland as unacceptable.

Sinn Fein's vice-president and the Stormont deputy first minister said there can be no place for the malicious harassment online and daubed on walls in Belfast.

It includes graffiti threats against journalists Patricia Devlin and Allison Morris, threats against Irish international footballer James McClean, and "vile" social media abuse directed at her party colleague Martina Anderson.

Ms O'Neill said: "There has been a concerning increase in malicious online harassment, threats and abuse recently directed at public figures.

"All of these threats and abuse are absolutely unacceptable.

"A free press is central to a democratic society and journalists must be protected from the threat of violence and harassment in carrying out their important work.

"Equally, it is a democratic imperative that public representatives are able to represent their constituents free from abuse and threats of violence."

She will raise the matter at the Assembly on Monday.

She added: "Where members of the public have information in regards to such abuse it should be reported to police, and where relevant social media platforms so action can be taken to protect individuals from this harassment and malice."

Foyle Assembly member Ms Anderson said she had reported "vile and despicable" abuse received on social media in recent days to the police.

Republic of Ireland international James McClean and his wife Erin have spoken out in the last couple of days about the abuse their family have received over the past nine years, which have included death threats.

There has been widespread condemnation of threatening graffiti targeting Irish News security correspondent Allison Morris.

Earlier this month, Sunday World journalist Patricia Devlin was the subject of similarly sinister graffiti.