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Taoiseach offers support as James McClean speaks out over horrific abuse

The Irish international has again shared the anti-Irish sentiment thrown at him in the UK, and is calling on others to speak out about their experiences.

File photo of James McClean.
File photo of James McClean.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has issued his support to James McClean and his family, as the Irish international has again spoken out about the almost-daily slew of anti-Irish and sectarian abuse to which he is subjected.

“Well done to the family of James McClean for speaking out about years of horrific abuse they’ve suffered online”, tweeted the Taoiseach. “Social media at its best gives a voice to everyone – at its worst it is toxic and cruel.” 

McClean expressed his frustration at the abuse he suffers online in an Instagram post last Friday, to which one person replied threatening to burn down his family home. 

Speaking on OTBAM today, McClean revealed his brother Patrick – who plays for Glentoran – today received a message saying it would be preferable if McClean’s three young children had to watch him burn to death. 

“This is from a kid”, said McClean. “That sort of hatred shouldn’t be in you at that age. Where is learning that? I hope and I pray that my kids wouldn’t have that sort of hatred in them. If they did, I would do my best to educate them: to sit them down and tell them that their words have consequences.” 

After McClean declined to wear the Remembrance Day poppy in 2012, he was sent a death threat ahead of a game with Everton, with a supporter telling him he would bring a gun to the game. 

Nine years on, McClean is still getting death threats.

“When I’ve been sent bullets in the post, the cops get them. When I’ve been told I’m going to be shot, the cops receive that, and the cops have all the letters. The club report everything, and the cops have all the information over the years. But nothing is ever done. So you can probably see why I am not holding my breath.” 

The abuse is not just limited to social media. 

“You should be able to say, ‘We’ll do a bit of shopping or go for food’ without being on edge. It’s got to the stage now if somebody is coming up to me and asking for a photo, I don’t know if they are being genuine.

“I remember when I was at Sunderland, I was flying back to Newcastle via Belfast, and this guy sat beside me on the flight, an English guy, saying he was in the army.

“He seemed like a nice bloke, he asked afterwards could he take a photo in the terminal. Then he put up the photo on his Twitter, ‘Just had a photo with this scumbag.’

“It puts you on the back foot and it you don’t know if people are being genuine.”

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McClean also expressed regret over an Instagram post last year, in which he posted a picture of him wearing a balaclava while surrounded by his kids captioned, ‘History lesson.’ McClean was fined by his club Stoke City for the post. 

“The balaclava post was ill-judged on my part. It was supposed to be funny, I thought it was funny at the time and didn’t think about it, but I didn’t take into consideration the hurt it might cause people. 

“It annoys me because it is almost giving people justifications for abusing me, and they say he brings it on himself. They don’t see that this balaclava post came after eight years of non-stop abuse. Ask them to put themselves in my shoes, and take this kind of abuse day in, day out. At some point you are going to react. Rightly or wrongly, you’ll react because you’re human.” 

McClean’s children are aged seven, five, and three, and he admits he and his wife Erin will soon have to sit down with them and explain the daily abuse he endures.

“It’s difficult. How do you sit down and tell your kids why Daddy is hated so much? I will just have to be as honest as I can. They are already asking the question why Daddy gets shouted at and booed during games, and we just say it’s because they don’t want Daddy’s team to win.

“That will only get you so far. When the time comes, it will be a tough conversation for me and Erin.”

McClean thanked his international team-mates for the support they have shown in the last few days, and says he is speaking out on behalf of everyone enduring anti-Irish abuse in the UK. 

“This is not a cry for sympathy, sympathy is not going to help. I’ve had a lot of messages from a lot of ex-players, current players and the general public saying they are subjected to anti-Irish abuse in the UK on a daily basis, and don’t speak up. 

“This isn’t just about me, it’s about them as well. Sports stars, people in the public eye, normal people: no longer are we going to stand by and accept the Irish abuse. We should be proud to be Irish and not be abused for it.  

“Things like being called a Paddy, a fenian, leprechaun, pikey; it’s unacceptable, and we are not going to accept it anymore. I want those people to stand out and challenge that. We are not in fear, and shouldn’t be treated like we are in fear. It’s time to stand up and be proud of who you are, and don’t accept being seen as second class.” 

 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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