Miriam tells of Twitter messages of hate to her family
RTE STAR Miriam O'Callaghan revealed last night how she was terrorised by people who sent her messages saying they hoped that she and her children would die.
She received the "intimidating, unsettling and frightening" messages on Twitter after her controversial presidential election debate with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.
The broadcaster finally decided to reveal the agony she suffered on the social-media website after hearing of the abuse directed at footballer James McClean earlier this week.
The Derry-born soccer star has been forced to quit Twitter after receiving death threats in the wake of his call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012.
Ms O'Callaghan told the Irish Independent how she had been subjected to threats against her family after questioning Mr McGuinness on the apparent contradiction between his religious beliefs and IRA murders. "While I have never spoken about this before, I received terrible abuse after my interview with Martin McGuinness," she said. "People were tweeting me, saying they hoped I would die and hoped my children would die. Every word was ‘f ’ and ‘c’. "It is very intimidating, unsettling and frightening when people are threatening you and your children with death.
"I don't mind people being critical of my programmes – but this crossed the line.
"The tone of the tweets was so nasty, I almost quit Twitter because of the unbelievable level of vitriol and abuse."
Last night, Mr McGuinness condemned the threats received by Ms O'Callaghan, who has eight children.
The torrent of sick messages was unleashed after she confronted Mr McGuinness during the RTE 'Prime Time' presidential debate.
The presenter pressed the former IRA chief of staff on the apparent contradiction between his strong Catholic beliefs and the murders committed by the IRA during the Troubles.
She directly asked Mr McGuinness how he could claim to be a man of religion and yet be "involved in the murder of so many people".
Ms O'Callaghan (51) said last night that she absolved Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein of any responsibility for the abuse.
"I know that Martin or his team had nothing to do with it but people felt they were acting on his behalf," she said.
Mr McGuinness's spokesman said the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister "absolutely" condemned any threats against Ms O'Callaghan and that the individuals responsible were "as reprehensible as those who targeted James McClean".
"I condemn it out of hand," the Sinn Fein spokesman added.
The 'Prime Time' presenter's horror was relived this week after hearing of the vicious tweets targeting Sunderland winger McClean who, prior to declaring for Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni, had played for Northern Ireland at under-21 level.
During the presidential debate, Mr McGuinness became angry at Ms O'Callaghan's line of questioning.
Sinn Fein's entourage in Montrose were also said to be irate at the questions put to Mr McGuinness.
After the programme, Mr McGuinness confronted Ms O'Callaghan, demanded to speak directly to her in private and the pair had a heated exchange in a dressing room.
Inside the room, Mr McGuinness expressed his displeasure about questions posed to him during the debate. Witnesses said voices were raised during the course of the five-minute discussion.
The incident is believed to have damaged Mr McGuinness's campaign as it was widely reported and there were expressions of support for Ms O'Callaghan.
A senior garda officer said gardai could not investigate a threat to Ms O'Callaghan unless she lodged a complaint with the force.