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Editorial: Sectarianism a cancer in society

WHAT sort of person carries so much hate in their heart that they would revel in a song mocking the murder of a young schoolteacher?

Such a grotesque act is almost impossible to comprehend yet for several people at a social gathering this week, that is exactly what happened.

Michaela McAreavey from Co Tyrone suffered a brutal death in her hotel room while enjoying her honeymoon with her husband John on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius in 2011.

The 27-year-old's murder horrified people across Ireland and beyond and the agony of relatives was exacerbated by the inability of Mauritian authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

Anyone could only have enormous sympathy for their plight, yet the reaction of one or more people was instead to compose a vile chant mocking their grief.

A video has now shown it being enthusiastically sung in a room decorated with Orange Order banners, while others laugh and clap along.

A shameful act of sectarian hatred, it is also clear it is not an isolated incident as the words were known to several people.

The footage is being examined by police and due process should now be allowed to take its course.

An unequivocal public apology issued by two men yesterday was welcome, as was swift and decisive action by Linfield FC in relation to a volunteer coach.

The Orange Order also condemned the "abhorrent" chanting and said anyone involved who is found to be members of the institution will face disciplinary proceedings.

That can surely only result in expulsion if a clear message is to be sent out that such behaviour is completely unacceptable.

The order has faced criticism in the past for sectarian behaviour by members or supporters, including the playing of offensive songs during parades.

However, the advent of social media has demonstrated that such attitudes are sadly still prevalent across many areas of society.

Such actions are the antithesis of the values Michaela McAreavey embodied in her life and which live on in the work of the foundation in her name.

The universal condemnation of the sickening chants about her tragic death has been the only positive aspect of this depressing episode.

It must be hoped that the harsh spotlight now being shone on sectarian and hate-filled behaviour will provide the impetus to finally root out this cancer in our communities.

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