Gardai launch hunt for trolls who sent Christie online abuse after
Gardai have launched an investigation into the online racist abuse suffered by Irish international football star Cyrus Christie.
The player flew back to Dublin to make a statement on November 27.
It is understood officers from Irishtown Garda Station have contacted Twitter as part of the investigation.
Trolls face fines and prison terms of up to 24 months.
Christie was left in tears after trolls subjected him to abuse following Ireland's defeat to Denmark in the World Cup qualifier on November 14.
He also received online abuse before the game.
Gardai will examine the content of the messages and try to identify the people who sent them.
Charges under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 could be brought against culprits.
The law prohibits the publication or distribution of written material, words and images that are likely to stir up hatred.
It carries fines of up to €12,700 and jail terms of up to two years.
Twitter declined to comment when asked if it was co-operating with the investigation.
"We don't comment for privacy and security reasons," it said.
However, the social media website has protocols for law enforcement agencies to follow when it comes to obtaining information.
Some of the messages referred to Christie as a "n****r" while others said he "should play for Jamaica".
Many of the tweets and profiles were deleted, which could hamper the investigation.
According to Twitter, once an account is deactivated, there is a "very brief" period in which it can access its information.
"Content deleted by account holders is generally not available," according to the company's website.
The FAI had previously contacted gardai in connection with the messages.
Christie has received massive support from fans and players.
"Some of the comments went beyond football," said team-mate James McClean. "And that for a player who's been a good servant to his country. It cut deep.
"You've just missed out on the World Cup and then to have that. He was in tears."
Fans of Christie's club, Middlesbrough FC, put up a banner in support of the defender on his return from the internationals.
"We're a group who are completely against any form of discrimination," said one of them.
"We were appalled to see that one of our players had been subjected to such hate and felt it necessary to show our support in what could be an unnerving time for him.
"Thankfully, racism and discrimination are not as prevalent within football as they use to be, but in these instances, those who are targeted should be reminded that they are not alone and that these bigots are a backwards, small-minded minority."
Christie released a statement condemning the abuse and thanked everyone who had supported him.
"I'd like to say I am extremely proud to represent my country, the Republic of Ireland, and I give everything I can each time I put on the green shirt," he said.
"I genuinely believe our fans are some of the best in the world.
"These comments are not representative of our fans or our sport. We were all deeply upset to not reach the World Cup finals and are hurting just as much as everyone else.
"It is deeply saddening that racism is still part of the game we all enjoy and love. I strongly believe we need to stand up against these individuals who do not belong in football or sport."
Prosecutions under the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act are rare.
There was one prosecution under the act this year, but none in 2016.
Garrett Mullen, director of Show Racism The Red Card, has called for the introduction of racism as an aggravating factor in a crime.
"Legislation that takes racism into account in terms of sentencing, making it an aggravating factor, would help," he said last month.
A 2015 report by the University of Limerick's Hate and Hostility Research Group said Ireland was unique in western democracies in not having legislation that targets the hate element of a crime.