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Death threat for the journalist who dared to criticise McGuinness

DETECTIVES were today trying to identify a Sinn Fein supporter who made death threats against one of the country's leading newspaper columnists.

Serious crime officers were checking phone records as they trailed the thug who made threats to former senator Eoghan Harris.

The sinister call was made to the offices of Independent Newspapers in Dublin about an article Mr Harris penned for The Dubliner magazine in the Herald.

Mr Harris, a widely respected campaigning broadcaster and writer, today said he stood by the piece he wrote about Sinn Fein's presidential candidate Martin McGuinness.

Sinn Fein today refused to comment on the matter.



threat

In the piece, Mr Harris outlined 10 compelling reasons the Sinn Fein politician would be an unsuitable president.

Staff at Independent Newspapers received a phone call on Saturday afternoon from a caller who identified himself as a supporter of Mr McGuinness.

The caller mentioned the Dubliner piece and demanded to speak to Mr Harris.

When he was told that the Sunday Independent columnist was unavailable, he said: "Eoghan Harris should be shot for what he is writing about Martin McGuinness -- and I think I am the man to do it."

The incident was reported to Store Street gardai who sent a team of detectives to Mr Harris' home to inform him of the threat.

Speaking to the Herald today, Mr Harris said he did not believe Mr McGuinness had anything to do with the person involved.

"I don't believe Martin McGuinness had anything to do with the person who identified himself as his supporter.

"I wrote the article honestly and I believe it annoyed some supporters of Mr McGuinness.

"I will continue to cooperate with gardai and take their advice on the matter."

Mr Harris admitted that he received calls from readers "all the time" but this particular one was "of a much more sinister and serious nature".

In the Dubliner article -- entitled 'A Deal With The Devil', Mr Harris details 10 reasons why he believes the former IRA boss would make an unsuitable president.

He wrote that a McGuinness presidency would "be a Sinn Fein Trojan horse" encouraging "loyalist extremism and Real IRA reaction".

Saturday's incident comes a week after Sunday Independent journalist Ronald Quinlan was allegedly intimidated by members of the Ulster MP's presidential election team.

Mr Quinlan claims to have been "harangued" in an RTE car park by three Sinn Fein workers while he was in the process of taking photographs of a vehicle belonging to the McGuinness campaign.



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Detailing the incident, the journalist wrote: "As I prepared to take a picture, I was approached by four of Mr McGuinness's associates.

"One of them expressed concern that we would publish an image in which the car's number plate would be visible.

"I made it clear we normally blacked out number plates."

He continued: "Had my encounter with the McGuinness entourage ended there, I would have thought no more of it.

"It didn't.

"The three other men moved in closer than was comfortable and proceeded to point their fingers and verbally harangue me."

hnews@herald.ie