Arlene Foster has spoken to the Impartial Reporter about the impact internet trolls have had on her children.

The DUP leader was speaking following the jailing of a man in England for comments he made on social media about Ms Foster and British Home Secretary Priti Patel.

In one of his comments it has been reported that he wrote:

“You will be killed and ten DUPP (sic) to the Irish Embassy and kill you all and chop your bodies up and put your head Tower of London.”

Ms Foster said that social media companies must do more.

“It is very upsetting for my children to see such threats, as no child should have to read that sort of thing about their mother. Social media companies have a responsibility to take more action against these sorts of issues and I hope that they do.”

Ms Foster was also the subject of a death threat on social media in recent weeks. As reported in this newspaper at the time police were investigating a threat directed at Arlene Foster in which a man allegedly said he “must try” shooting the Democratic Unionist leader with a rifle “to see if I’d get away with it”.

“Free speech is when people have a space to disagree with your politics and what you believe in. While I do believe in free speech, what ended with this gentleman being in court obviously goes way beyond that, as you end up with very nasty threats. The internet is a very dark place; obviously it has brought a lot of good in that everyone is connected nowadays, but it also brings out the worst in some people,” Ms Foster said.

The DUP leader also said it was important that the relevant authorities continued to take action against online abuse:

“Certainly it appears that the courts take these matters very seriously. That’s important as it sends out a message to others who might think that there are no consequences to the words that they may put on social media.”

Meanwhile a DUP spokesperson has said that online abuse directed at elected representatives is “deeply concerning”:

“The levels of abuse directed to elected representatives is deeply concerning. Threats and abuse to anyone is unacceptable and it must be treated seriously. The messages sent to Arlene Foster were particularly sinister and upsetting.

We thank the Police and the judicial system for dealing with this incident appropriately. As a result, perhaps others who deem this to be acceptable behaviour will think more seriously about the consequences.”