AN appeal has been made for Londonderry footballer James McClean to “take responsibility” after it was revealed his personal Twitter account displays a picture of him holding a miniature replica of a republican landmark.
The young star can be seen pointing to a ornament-style version of the Bogside gable, which carries the words: “You are now entering Free Derry.”
The call comes after the 23-year-old winger, who plays for Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League, discovered on Monday that he had been included in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland team for next month’s Euro 2012 finals.
Soon afterwards, the former Northern Ireland U-21 footballer was subjected to abuse, also on Twitter. Some posts contained sectarian comments and threats to kill.
DUP MP for East Londonderry Gregory Campbell, who repeated his “unreserved condemnation” of the internet abuse, said of McClean’s online photograph: “I know in the past he has been very vociferous in his comments, which is fair enough as a private individual, but he is a well-known, highly-paid footballer who should really be aware of the sensitivities surrounding issues like that.
“He needs to take responsibility and realise that people read and watch his Twitter account. Over the past couple of years he has invited controversy because of what he has said.
“Having said that, there should not have been the intimidation that was posted towards him. That goes without saying.”
When asked if an investigation into the matter was ongoing, a PSNI spokesman said: “We do not discuss the security of individuals.”
However, it is understood no complaint has been made to the PSNI, Northumbria Police or an Garda Siochana.
When asked about the image, a spokesman from Sunderland Football Club said: “We would not comment on anything like that. We are aware of what is happening on Twitter with James that we will deal with internally, but we won’t comment on anything like that.”
A spokesman for the Football Association of Ireland said they had “no comment to make” in relation to his Twitter account. The spokesman added: “We will address what he puts up when he is part of our squad. He reports for duty on May 17. At that stage we will address with all our players what they can and can’t do. We will be giving them guidelines.”
After finding out he was chosen for the Republic’s squad, McClean tweeted: “Absolutely honoured and couldn’t be happier to have been called up to represent my country at the Euros. No better feeling.”
The footballer, who carries an Irish passport, later made a general response following the abuse on Twitter.
He wrote: “Love the dogs’ abuse am gettin off shock NI fans, just worry about watchin ur own country at the euros... oh wait #mybad #awkward haha.”
Last night Mr McClean had deleted his Twitter account.