Saturday 15 December 2018

Cyrus Christie to make formal statement to Gardaí over racist Twitter abuse

McGrath condemns vile attacks on footballer Christie

Cyrus Christie of Ireland following Denmark defeat
Cyrus Christie of Ireland following Denmark defeat
Ireland hero Paul McGrath. Photo: Getty Images
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Ireland international footballer Cyrus Christie will make a formal statement to gardaí about the racist abuse he has suffered online.

It's understood copies of the vile messages the player received on Twitter have been given to gardaí.

A source said he is due to return from England to make a statement to officers "imminently".

Some of the messages, seen by the Irish Independent, referred to the player as a "n****r", while others said he "should play for Jamaica". Many of the tweets have since been deleted.

There was no response from Twitter last night to questions about whether the company would aid any investigation into the abuse, or if it had taken action against the accounts publishing it.

Christie has received massive backing from Irish football fans and stars since hitting back at the racist abuse, including from Ireland hero Paul McGrath.

"I think it's outrageous. Ireland has always been a very diverse country," he told the Irish Independent.

McGrath also wrote a tweet saying he was "disgusted" about the racial abuse being levelled at Christie.

"I put out the tweet just to call them out," he said.

An FAI spokesman said it was working with Christie to deal with the abuse and the organisation was giving him its full support.

The Professional Footballers Association of Ireland and Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) released a joint statement in which it called for the perpetrators to be called to account.

Christie also received backing from the PFA in Britain.

A spokesperson said it would contact the player to offer him "any additional support he may require" from them.

Christie's club, Middlesbrough FC, last night released a statement saying it "condemns the disgusting abuse aimed at Cyrus Christie following the Republic of Ireland's defeat to Denmark in Dublin last week".

"We hope that the authorities involved in the investigation will find the culprits, bring them to justice, and send out a clear message that this type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated." Gardaí are awaiting Christie's statement before launching a formal investigation. A Garda spokesperson last night said the force did not comment on named individuals.

Former Ireland star Ray Houghton has called on social media websites to do more to tackle abuse. "The people who are running these websites have got to be more diligent about what's going on and make sure the authorities are given the ability to catch them and punish them for what they're doing," he told RTÉ Radio One.

The Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 prohibits the publication or distribution of written material, words and images which are likely to stir up hatred.

It carries fines of up to €12,700 and jail terms of up to two years. However the laws are hardly ever used and have been described as unworkable by campaigners as the burden of proof is very high.

"They are pretty useless. To my knowledge, they have never been used for online material," said Shane O'Curry, director of European Network Against Racism Ireland.

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