Three people are to be prosecuted in connection with the singing of a song that contained offensive lyrics about the murder of Michaela McAreavey, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has announced today, October 5.
A total of seven individuals were reported to the PPS for consideration after a police investigation into footage of singing at an event hosted in a venue in Dundonald, Co Down in May 2022 which was streamed live on social media.
The PPS said on Thursday that after careful consideration of all the evidence and information reported by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in relation to this matter, a decision has been taken to prosecute three individuals for the offence of “stirring up hatred” contrary to Article 9 of the Public Order (NI) Order 1987.
Summonses will now be issued to these three individuals to appear at a Magistrates’ Court on a date yet to be fixed, the PPS said.
While three individuals are set to appear in court, the PPS noted that the four remaining suspects will not be prosecuted "after it was concluded the available evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any offence."
Senior Public Prosecutor John O’Neill said on Thursday: “The Test for Prosecution was applied carefully and impartially to the evidence reported in relation to each of the seven suspects investigated by police.
“After a thorough consideration of all evidence it was concluded that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction in relation to three of those reported. Accordingly, proceedings will soon be commenced.”
O’Neill said the PPS had informed all relevant parties of the decisions today, including the McAreavey and Harte families.
He added: “The footage captures lyrics which are a deeply offensive portrayal of a tragic and distressing event.
"I have informed the McAreavey and Harte families of the outcome of the PPS consideration of those reported and, where there was a decision not to prosecute, provided detailed written reasons.
"I have assured Michaela’s loved ones that a decision not to prosecute some of the reported suspects does not excuse poor or offensive behaviour on their part. Rather, it simply means that the evidence did not provide a reasonable prospect of convicting them of a criminal offence.”
In January 2011, Co Tyrone woman Michaela (née Harte) McAreavey was strangled to death after returning to her room in Legends Hotel in Mauritius alone and disturbing a burglary.
The 27-year-old schoolteacher, the daughter of GAA manager Mickey Harte, was on her honeymoon with her husband John McAreavey at the time of her death.
No one has ever been convicted of her murder.
In early June 2022, a Facebook live video, apparently filmed at an Orange Hall in Dundonald, Co Down, featuring people singing a song mocking the murder of McAreavey began to spread widely on social media despite having been on Facebook for a number of days.
The people sang, in part, how McAreavey's attackers "hammered and bate her about."
The video was originally posted by Andrew McDade, who later issued a formal apology along with John Bell and Richie Beattie. The video began to spread on various social media platforms before McDade apparently deleted his Facebook account.
The incident was met with widespread condemnation, including from representatives across Northern Ireland's political divide. At least three people in the video lost their jobs over the incident, and some of the people in the video resigned from the Orange Order.
A spokesperson for The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland said afterward that the group "condemns the content without reservation" and that an inquiry had been instigated.
"If any of those involved are found to be members of the Institution, they will face disciplinary proceedings," the spokesperson said.
The PSNI confirmed soon afterward that it was investigating the incident.
McAreavey's widower John said: "Hate can hurt, but never win."
Michaela was a vessel of love, courage and dignity.
Hate can hurt, but never win. ♥️— John McAreavey (@john_mcareavey) June 3, 2022