Men say they’re deeply ashamed of actions as Michaela’s widower John remembers ‘vessel of love’
The widower of Michaela McAreavey responded last night after a video appeared on social media showing people in a hall decked with Orange Order banners and Union Jack bunting singing a song mocking the murder of his late wife.
John McAreavey, whose bride was murdered on their honeymoon in Mauritius, tweeted last night: “Michaela was a vessel of love, courage and dignity. Hate can hurt, but never win.”
The vile video sparked widespread condemnation across the political spectrum north and south of the Border.
Men believed to be attending a Northern Ireland centenary celebration laughed, clapped, cheered and banged tables strewn with beer cans as others sang a song mocking the murder of Ms McAreavey in 2011.
The 27-year-old, the only daughter of all-Ireland winning football manager Mickey Harte, was strangled in her hotel room on the Indian Ocean island.
Two of the men in the video, John Bell and Andrew McDade, apologised for their actions, while the Orange Order said an inquiry had begun and called the clip “utterly abhorrent”.
McDade, who posted the footage on Facebook Live, and Bell called it a matter of “deep shame and regret”.
In a statement issued via JWB Consultancy, which is run by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, they said: “The Facebook Live video was not streamed with the intent of broadcasting any offensive chants whatsoever, rather it was generally broadcasting from the room.
“However, whether broadcast or not, the relevant chants should never have been sung either in public or private.”
The pair promised to write a formal letter of apology to the Harte and McAreavey families and make a donation to a charity of their choice.
It comes as a council in the North confirmed today that it is investigating claims that one of its employees was involved in the video.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council said it was treating the matter with the “utmost seriousness”.
The council said it had been made aware of “disturbing social media content allegedly involving a council employee”.
It added: “While we acknowledge that the behaviour undertaken was carried out in a private capacity, beyond the control of the council, we wish to reassure the public that we are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness, and have launched an internal investigation.
"As an equal opportunities employer, such behaviour does not represent the values of our organisation. We serve all members of the community with respect and dignity, and utterly condemn this type of defamatory and sectarian behaviour. We would like to express our sincere sympathy to the McAreavey and Harte families at this distressing time.”
Linfield Football Club was also dragged into the controversy after it emerged that a coach from its girls’ academy was involved. It said the person had been contacted and notified his voluntary association with the Belfast club had been terminated with immediate effect.
A club statement added: “Linfield FC condemns the offensive, sickening and deep-
ly hurtful and insulting chanting that is taking place in the online video and the club wishes to disassociate itself totally from the unacceptable behaviour.
“Linfield FC apologises to the Harte/McAreavey families for the hurt that has been caused to them by the offensive actions of one of our now former coaches.”
The PSNI said it is investigating the contents of the video “to determine if any offences may have been committed”.
Police later said they had not received any reports relating to abuse and threats aimed at associates of the two men.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson labelled the video “vile”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “appalled and horrified” by the footage, while Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney called it “hateful and shameful behaviour”.
Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said she had spoken to Mr McAreavey to offer “solidarity” to the families.
Another company, the Craigavon-based gravel supplier Norman Emerson Group Ltd, issued a statement to say it was aware of “highly offensive social media content” made by one its employees.
It said a “full and thorough internal investigation” was under way.
It added: “As a family and as a business, we endeavour to ensure an ethos of respect, inclusivity and consideration in everything we do.
“While we cannot control what anyone associated with us chooses to post online, such divisive and derogatory posts are in no way representative of who we are and we unreservedly denounce such behaviour.
“We will not tolerate or condone sectarianism, bigotry or intimidation in any form from anyone employed by us.”
Separately, managing director George Emerson said he had been inundated with contacts since the footage came to light.
“The business has been here for 80 years and the majority of employees are from the local area and people know this is not what we’re about,” he said.
“It’s just vile – there’s no other way to describe it, and I was so offended by it personally.”