Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster alerts PSNI to 'beheading' threat

Arlene Foster Image copyright PA
Image caption The PSNI said it could not confirm that it was investigating threats against Arlene Foster

Former first minister Arlene Foster has alerted police to threats issued against her on social media, including one that wanted her "beheaded".

Mrs Foster told the Impartial Reporter the PSNI was investigating the threats.

The PSNI said it could not confirm that an investigation had been launched.

"We do not discuss the security of individuals," said police.

"We will never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk."

"No inference should be drawn from this."

Mrs Foster, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, lost her role as first minister when Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister on Monday.

He cited the DUP's conduct over the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) as being the main reason behind his resignation.

Mr McGuinness has condemned the threats against the former first minister on Twitter, he said they were "shameful and totally unacceptable".

"I unreservedly condemn those responsible for the cowards they are," he added.

Image copyright Twitter

'Venomous'

Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said a snap election is now "highly probable", as efforts to break the political deadlock have so far failed.

Mrs Foster has been heavily criticised for her role in the RHI, which is set to run £490m over budget.

Sinn Féin had asked her to step aside as first minister while an independent investigation took place into the scheme.

Last week, she said calls for her to step aside were "misogynistic". DUP minister Simon Hamilton said social media searches would uncover "venomous, quite nasty criticism of Arlene personally".

Mrs Foster is the latest in the long line of politicians to face threats of violence on social media, including MPs Anna Soubry and Yvette Cooper.

Meanwhile, in 2015, police warned Martin McGuinness that dissident republicans had threatened to kill him in a "rocket attack".

Mrs Foster has also experienced violence in her past - in 1978, her father, a part-time policeman, was shot in the head by the IRA on their family farm.

In 1988, a school bus she was travelling in was targeted in a bomb attack.

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