By Dominic McGrath, Jonathan McCambridge and David Young, PA
Two men have apologised for their involvement in a video appearing to show a group of people mocking the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
The video, which emerged on social media on Friday, has prompted outcry in Northern Ireland and beyond, as well as across the political spectrum.
Politicians united to condemn the video, while the Orange Order said an inquiry had begun and called the clip “utterly abhorrent”.
In a statement issued through the PA news agency, two of the people involved, John Bell and Andrew McDade, offered an apology for their actions.
Calling it a matter of “deep shame and regret”, the two men have promised to write a formal letter of apology to the Harte and McAreavey families and to make a donation to a charity of their choice.
Mrs McAreavey, 27, was strangled in her room at the Legends Hotel in Mauritius on January 10th, 2011.
The teacher, who had married husband John 10 days earlier, was attacked after she returned to her room alone and disturbed a burglary.
No-one has been convicted of murdering the daughter of Gaelic football manager Mickey Harte.
In the social media video a number of men appear to sing about the murder of Mrs McAreavey.
Mr Bell and Mr McDade admitted it was an “offensive, vile and wholly abhorrent chant”.
“This Facebook live video was not streamed with the intent of broadcasting any offensive chants whatsoever, rather it was generally broadcasting from the room.
“However, whether broadcast or not, the relevant chants should never have been sung either in public or private.
“We offer our sincerest and deepest apology to the Harte and McAreavey families, and indeed to wider society for our actions which whilst fuelled by alcohol, can neither be mitigated or excused in any shape or form.
“Our apology is unequivocal, and our acceptance of wrongdoing is absolute,” the two men said.
The men, in a statement issued by JWB Consultancy, said that the incident was not reflective of who they are.
“Several family members and friends have been subjected to online threats and abuse in recent hours due to our unacceptable actions.
“This is unfair and unwarranted; it is us and us alone who are responsible for our actions.
“In addition, this behaviour is unreflective of the values of the Loyal Orders and the wider unionist and loyalist community.
“Whilst brought upon ourselves, this incident has had a significant impact upon us, and we ask for privacy at this time,” the men said.
Earlier on Friday, the PSNI confirmed that it was investigating the contents of the video.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police are aware of the video posted online and are examining the content to determine if any offences may have been committed.”
Linfield Football Club moved on Friday to sack a club volunteer allegedly involved in the video.
In a statement, the club confirmed that it had contacted a girls’ academy coach in relation to the video.
The club said that his “voluntary association with the club has been terminated with immediate effect”.
The statement called the video “offensive, sickening and deeply hurtful”, adding: “Linfield FC apologises to the Harte/McAreavey families for the hurt that has been caused to them by the offensive actions of one of our now former coaches.
We have been made aware of highly offensive social media content allegedly made by one of our employees, and now comment as follows –
As a family and as a business, we endeavour to ensure an ethos of respect, inclusivity and consideration in everything we do. pic.twitter.com/eoUIgqItPc
— Norman Emerson Group (@normanemerson) June 3, 2022
Construction supplies company Norman Emerson Group also issued a statement to say it was looking into the alleged involvement of an employee and said that a “full and thorough internal investigation” was under way.
The Orange Order said an inquiry into the video contents had started.
A Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland spokesperson said: “The behaviour of those involved and their actions have no place in our society and certainly do not reflect the ethos of our organisation.
“The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has instigated an inquiry into the incident and if any of those involved are found to be members of the institution, they will face disciplinary proceedings.”
I have spoken with @john_mcareavey to offer solidarity to both the McAreavey and Harte families. Hate and sectarianism have no place in our society. People deserve better. Love over hate will always win out.
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) June 3, 2022
Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said that she had spoken to John McAreavey to offer “solidarity” to the families.
“Hate and sectarianism have no place in our society. People deserve better. Love over hate will always win out.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also labelled the video “vile”.
“It is plain wrong and is deeply hurtful to the family of Michaela McAreavey,” he tweeted.
This is vile. It is plain wrong and is deeply hurtful to the family of Michaela McAreavey. https://t.co/4WnpUrkDIm
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) June 3, 2022
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty wrote on social media: “Fist pumping, table banging, clapping, laughing, jeering – singing a song about the shocking murder of one of the most beautiful people you could ever meet.
“It’s so sick and shameful. Thinking about the Harte family who’ve been so strong and dignified. They do not deserve this.”
DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said: “This is wrong on so many levels. I remember the utter devastation felt by all following the tragic killing of Michaela McAreavey.
“My thoughts are with the McAreavey and Harte family circles and I condemn this vile video.”
The video glorying in the murder of Michaela McAreavey is beyond disgusting, bringing shame and dishonour on all associated with such loathsome behaviour.
— Jim Allister (@JimAllister) June 3, 2022
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said on Twitter that the video was “absolutely abhorrent, disgusting and shameful”.
UUP deputy leader Robbie Butler said he was “absolutely appalled and disgusted” at the video.
TUV leader Jim Allister tweeted: “The video glorying in the murder of Michaela McAreavey is beyond disgusting, bringing shame and dishonour on all associated with such loathsome behaviour.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, speaking about the video in Dublin, said that sectarianism in Northern Ireland had to be addressed.
“It’s beyond comprehension that people could behave in that manner, and to be so indifferent to the trauma of that the family suffered and in the entire community.
“I think it speaks to a sectarianism and the degree of malice and hate in society that needs to be dealt with, and those involved in should apologise, in the first instance, and those involved should reflect strongly on that.
“It’s just beyond comprehension, and shocking.”