Two Northern Irishmen have been fined for posting sectarian message on Facebook threatening to kill “taigs” (Catholics), along with other religious abuse.
Matthew McKenna (20) and Dean Boyd (21) were fined $715 (£400) and $396 (£250) respectively. Surprisingly Boyd’s wife and child are both Catholic.
The two men posted these comments during the height of the loyal order marching season in County Antrim, last year.
Sinn Fein Northern Ireland Assembly member Daithi McKay reported these comments to the police. He was named by McKenna in one of the texts and feared for his family’s safety.
Judge Richard Wilson, at the Coleraine Magistrates’ Court said they were stupid and rabble-rousing remarks.
He said “I hope you realize how inappropriate and stupid your comments are.
“It is comments like this that excite and exacerbate any tensions within this community and we can well do without it."
The Belfast Telegraph reports that this is one of the first cases of prosecution for social networking in Northern Ireland.
Both men pleaded guilty to sending a message.
Boyd had posted the message on his 21st Birthday, 25th August. He is an unemployed father-of-one from Skye Park, Ballymena.
He posted a comment saying “kill all taigs" and "f**k the Pope", the court was told.
Boyd expressed remorse in court. His lawyer said he had quickly removed the offending post.
They added that it was his birthday and he had been drinking.
The lawyer said there were a number of other “more serious” messages being passed around by other people.
"Mr Boyd did post the comments that have been read out but within 20 minutes he realized he should not have done such a thing and took the comments down.
"He was extremely frank and remorseful to police, in contrast with the responses of the other individuals."
The defense said “He runs in mixed circles and his friends heard of this and he suffered quite a deal of appropriate opprobrium for what he has done."
McKenna, a factory worker from Lisnahilt Road, Broughshane, County Antrim, also appeared in court.
The prosecution said he made a comment which named McKay.
He also posted “Let's show the scum in Rasharkin [a Co Antrim village where many Catholics live] how it is done.
"God save the Queen. For God and Ulster, Kill all taigs. Lest we forget."
His defense said McKenna did not realize his comments were public.
Judge Wilson said “These stupid, rabble-rousing sentiments are better left unsaid and your mouth zipped.
"When you place them on the media like this it only excites and stirs up feelings in the community, which we could all do without."
McKay said “No-one would get away with making such comments in the street and it is important that a message is sent out that sectarian comments and threats such as this are not acceptable and in this instance can inflame tensions.
"Sectarianism is a scourge on this society and all sectarian death threats that are made in any context need to be taken seriously."