Sickening song | 

Orange Order to stand by men despite revulsion over Michaela McAreavey song

The Sunday World has also learned that the original video was considerably longer and involved singing songs about the SAS ambush of an eight-strong IRA unit which attacked Loughgall security base in 1987.
Andrew McDade and John Bell

Andrew McDade and John Bell

Richard Sullivan

The Orange Order will stand by their men despite wholesale revulsion over their involvement in vile singing mocking the murder of Michaela McAreavey.

Andrew McDade and John Bell are in the eye of a storm after they were filmed chanting a stomach-churning song mocking Michaela's death.

But despite immediate condemnation from the loyal order and the pledge of an internal investigation, the Sunday World understands there is no intention to punish any of those involved.

The Sunday World has also learned that the original video was considerably longer and involved singing songs about the SAS ambush of an eight-strong IRA unit which attacked Loughgall security base in 1987.

They also mocked the shooting dead of three IRA members in 1988 also by the SAS as they prepared to launch a bomb attack on British soldiers.

But it was the sickening song mocking the murder in 2011 of Michaela while on honeymoon with husband John McAreavey on the island of Mauritius that has stunned and repulsed the country.

Andrew McDade

Andrew McDade

The daughter of Tyrone's All-Ireland winning coach Mickey Harte, now coach at Louth, was described on Friday as a "vessel of love" by husband John.

"Hate can hurt but never win," he wrote.

Two men at the centre of the controversy have been forced to quit their family homes after receiving death threats on Friday evening, hours after the video went public, and there was speculation yesterday that one of them is out of the country.

His involvement cost Bell his position as a voluntary football coach with Irish League champions Linfield who reacted instantly by sacking him and utterly condemning his behaviour.

John Bell

John Bell

In also condemning the incident, McDade's employers Norman Emerson Group in Craigavon said they were launching an inquiry.

"We will not tolerate or condone sectarianism or intimidation in any form from anyone employed by us."

But the Orange Order and the men's lodge will circle the wagons around their members, and that individuals within the organisation have joined forces with elements of loyalism to go on the offensive with Sinn Féin should McDade and Bell continue to come under attack.

According to the source, senior figures in the lodge have privately indicated they have no intention of "hanging our own out to dry".

Dundonald Orange Hall

Dundonald Orange Hall

The vile performance could not have come at a worse time for the Orange Order, coming as it did during last weekend's centennial celebrations in Belfast.

The Order was desperate to put on a "landmark event" to mark 100 years of Northern Ireland, showcasing the best of unionist and loyalist culture, only for boozed-up revellers, some of whom can be seen wearing collarettes, to defile the memory of a young woman murdered on her honeymoon.

But according to sources the wider feeling is that these men "messed up big time" but have apologised and are suffering the consequences.

"They will not be allowed to be isolated or treated like pariahs," an Orange Order source told us.

"All are deeply respected members of the loyal orders and loyalist community and this will be viewed for what it is, a serious error of judgment."

"They've had their public lashing of these men. Both men have said sorry, but if they want to keep going then they are going to start getting a bit back about the IRA's record on how they treated women," our source claimed.

This week McDade and Bell will send a personal letter of apology to the Harte and McAreavey families. According to sources the men are genuinely remorseful and feel they were swept up in the mood of the room.

The contents of the letters will remain strictly confidential.

In their statement they said: "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."

They added that their apology is "unequivocal and our acceptance of wrongdoing is absolute."

The video shows an Orange Hall packed with men some in suits and collarettes, others in t-shirts and jeans.

The tables are littered with beer cans and the men punch the air as they sing. Many are laughing, cheering and clapping as the poisonous words are sung.

All shades of political opinion have wholly condemned the incident and the PSNI has confirmed it is viewing the footage to ascertain whether a criminal offence has been committed.

There are also heightened concerns with the Order that the controversy could spark revenge attacks on Orange Halls.

When approached for comment, the men's representative Jamie Bryson confirmed his clients were under death threat and while repeating his condemnation urged all concerned to draw a line under the incident.

He said the men had accepted the "abhorrent chant" was entirely wrong and had taken responsibility for their role in the incident.

"There is no excusing the behaviour and the unionist and loyalist community have been united in absolute and complete condemnation.

"Neither man is a public figure and at some stage enough is enough. They have apologised and suffered the consequences."

richard.sullivan@sundayworld.com


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