A Derry-born soccer player has received death threats in the wake of his selection to play for Ireland in the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship.
James McClean was included in Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad announcement on Monday.
McClean, who played for Northern Ireland teams as a youth and now plays professionally for English premiership side Sunderland, was forced to delete his internet accounts after receiving sectarian abuse and threats.
Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said McClean had every right to play for the team of his choice.
“If a young fella decides to opt for the North or the South, I don’t think anyone should interfere politically with their choices,” said Mr McGuinness.
“If they believe their career is best served by whatever team they play for, we should support them.
“Why should we be down on young people who take a decision to play for the North or South? We should admire what they are doing and let them get on with it.”
Mr McGuinness, speaking during a newspaper interview about his interest in sport, added that he sees McClean as a “modern day hero”.
“James was like many other young people in the city, and probably wouldn’t have had tuppence in his pocket,” he said.
“He didn’t make it on to the first team at Sunderland under Steve Bruce initially, but Martin O’Neill came in and James got his opportunity and hasn’t looked back since.”
LOYALISTS DEFILE CHURCH
In other news, a priest said he “feared for his safety” after he challenged loyalist bandsmen who urinated on church property during a band parade.
Fr Colum Curran, parish priest at Saint Mary Star of the Sea in Killyleagh, County Down, said he was verbally abused during a loyalist parade in the town on April 20.
The band contest, which attracted up to 28 loyalist bands and 300 spectators to the seaside town, is one of hundreds of events held by loyalist ‘kick-the-Pope’ bands in the run-up to the marching season.
Fr Curran described the encounter as the “most ugly incident” during his 26 years in the priesthood and said he was “shaken” by the bigotry and by the behaviour of the bandsmen.