Two men convicted of stirring up hatred with song which mocked murder of Michaela McAreavey

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Michaela Harte McAreavey
Michaela McAreavey

Two men were convicted today of stirring up hatred by taking part in singing an “abhorrent” song which mocked the murder of Michaela McAreavey.

Steven Kane, 26, received a four-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to involvement in the chanting inside an Orange Order hall about the schoolteacher's death.

Co-accused Dillion Kelly, 22, denied the charge but was found guilty following a contest at Belfast Magistrates’ Court. He will be sentenced next month.

Ms McAreavey, the daughter of GAA football manager Mickey Harte, was attacked and killed by an intruder at her hotel room while on honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011.

In May 2022 a number of people were recorded taking part in a song about her murder.

The video clip, live streamed from a hall in Dundonald, east Belfast during events to celebrate the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland, provoked public outrage.

Last week a third defendant, 23-year-old Cian Jones, of Craigadick Road in Maghera, was given 240 hours community service after admitting behaviour intending to stir up hatred over his participation.

Kane, from Coolshinney Heights in Magherafelt, and Kelly, of Edmund Court in Tobermore, were charged with the same offence.

Footage of the singing, which involved members of the flute band punching the air, was played in court.

Prosecutors argued that the lyrics, including references to Ms McAreavy being “hammered and beaten about by strangers” were about mocking the murder of a young Catholic woman in a venue surrounded by Union flags.

“The words used can only be regarded by any right-minded person as abhorrent,” a Crown lawyer said.

“The only reasonable inference is that the intent was to incite hatred.”

Kelly declined to give evidence at the hearing, but during police interviews he denied taking part in the singing.

His solicitor, Richard Monteith, also argued that the lyrics made no reference to Ms McAreavey’s religion.

“The song is undoubtedly mocking… but the legislation is not designed to deal with bad taste, even appallingly bad taste,” he submitted.

However, District Judge George Conner ruled that Kelly had joined in the singing.

“I’m satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances, that hatred was likely to be stirred up and there will be a conviction,” Mr Conner held.

He instructed Kelly to appear again in six weeks time to be sentenced.

The murder victim’s widower, John McAreavey, provided a statement describing the distress caused him and the wider family circle by the singing.

He set out his belief that there was a hateful and hurtful intent behind it.

Kane’s barrister told the court that he was too young to have been aware of the murder but “foolishly” decided to join in at an alcohol-fuelled environment.

“In that male company, being a young man trying to fit in, he went along (with it),” counsel said.

Mr Thompson added that Kane lost a well-paid IT job and had to move home due to threats after the footage was published.

“This is something that has brought shame to his door and caused a lot of personal problems,” counsel said.

“This man and his family have gone through a lot because of his stupidity.”

With Kane having found another job, Mr Conner decided against ordering him to do community service.

Imposing the four-month suspended prison sentence, the judge said: “He has brought so much against himself by such foolish behaviour.”

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