A regional daily branded ‘sectarian’ by a former premiership footballer on Twitter has accused him of “spouting nonsense.”
The Belfast Telegraph was labelled as a “bitter sectarian paper” by Republic of Ireland and Wigan Athletic footballer James McClean, who also called its journalists “bigots”.
He made the comments, which have now been deleted, after the paper published an article last weekend looking back on the 20th anniversary of an infamous match between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
The paper defended itself in editor’s column published yesterday in which it strongly denied the charge of sectarianism.
It said: “The problem with Twitter is it allows the user to spout nonsense before thinking.
“That is the charitable interpretation this newspaper will put on footballer James McClean’s online rant against the Belfast Telegraph in which he accused us of sectarianism after we published an article looking back on the 20th anniversary of the infamous match at Windsor Park between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“Readers would have had to go a very long way out of their way indeed to be offended by what was a ‘down memory lane’-style article.
“We do not intend to become involved in an unnecessary debate over McClean’s words, which he quickly took down from his account, but there is a simple truth to consider.
“That is the Belfast Telegraph stands against sectarianism in all walks of Northern Irish life. Our readers, and indeed journalists, come from both ‘sides’ of the community.
“Uniquely among Northern Irish newspapers our sports pages give substantial coverage to all games played here.”
It added that the title would say no more about McClean’s outburst but would “let our journalism speak for us from now on.”
McClean has been involved in a number of Twitter rows before which saw him banned from using the social media site by his former club Sunderland.
The Bel Tel reported that following the footballer’s Twitter rant, Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill issued a fresh warning to his players over their use of social media.
He said he “wasn’t overly pleased” about it and had spoken to McClean about the incident.