TWO men have been handed fines for posting sectarian messages on Facebook after appearing in court in Coleraine.
Matthew McKenna, 20, and Dean Boyd, 21, whose partner and child are Catholics, threatened to kill all Taigs and wrote other religious abuse.
It was during the height of the loyal order marching season last summer, when tensions traditionally run high and can degenerate into violence.
It was reported to police by Sinn Fein Northern Ireland Assembly member Daithi McKay, who was named by McKenna in one post and who told officers he feared for his family’s safety.
North Antrim Magistrates’ Court district judge Richard Wilson said they were stupid and rabble-rousing remarks.
“I hope you realise 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,” he said.
This is believed to be one of the first cases of its kind in Northern Ireland of prosecution for a social networking offence.
There have already been several in the UK, including a man convicted of sending racist messages about a footballer who was seriously ill.
Both accused pleaded guilty to sending a message which was grossly offensive or indecent. Boyd was fined £250 and McKenna £400.
Boyd logged onto the social networking site on his 21st birthday on August 25 last year. He is an unemployed father-of-one from Skye Park, Ballymena, and has a partner and baby who are Catholics.
His post said: “kill all taigs (Catholics)” and “f*** the Pope”, a prosecutor told the court. McKenna, 20, a factory worker from Lisnahilt Road, Broughshane, also appeared in court.
Mr 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.”