Words have consequences as some prominent people have been finding out in the last week or two.

I was watching RTE’s GAA highlights on Sunday evening when the discussion came round to the use of the black card and how it’s affecting the physical nature of gaelic football. I must admit I winced when experienced pundit, Colm O’Rourke used the term “pansy boy.”

Referring to the concern that players might not want to go for the ball and risk hitting somebody, O’Rourke went on: “It will be a namby-pamby pansy-boy game.”

Oh oh, I thought.

There was a time, of course, when nobody would’ve passed any remarks. Not today, and sure enough the criticism came thick and fast, from “outdated” to “homophobic” and referee David Gough said it was abhorrent and unacceptable. “I was disgusted,” said Gough.

And, indeed, such language was certainly inappropriate. Whether this will have further repercussions for O’Rourke remains to be seen.

This follows the resignation of ITN newsreader Alastair Stewart for a comment he made on social media; in a disagreement with someone, Stewart replied to his opponent by quoting Shakespeare, who referred to how a person can lose their cool with anger and fail to listen to others as an “angry ape”. The man who Stewart was arguing with is black.

Stewart said he did not intend his comment to be at all racist, he was trying to be too clever and offered to apologise privately to the man. Indeed, the other man said an apology would have been “more than sufficient”.

Too late, though, Stewart was forced to resign by his ITN bosses, despite a clear record in a 40-year career.

We’ve been reassured by those that know them that O’Rourke is not homophobic and Stewart is not racist.

But I thought the words of the two men, in this day and age especially, were wholly inappropriate to say the least. I certainly would not condone them, but have to wonder if this was simply two men who made poor mistakes of judgement.

They certainly deserve criticism, but did Stewart deserve to lose his job and does O’Rourke deserve such opprobrium?

Homophobia and racism must be called out, for sure.

And as the election campaign in the south unfolded, Fine Gael Senator, Catherine Noone described her own party leader, Leo Varadkar as “autistic”….using the term as an insult she said “he’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits.”

Her excuse of “tiredness” hasn’t let her off the hook as she, rightly, battles to save her political career.

I couldn’t quite believe the contribution in a meeting of Ulster Unionist member of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Bert Wilson who suggested that benefit claimants in the area spent the money or drugs and alcohol. Give them food coupons, suggested the Councillor, as they can’t drink them.

In times where many families, even those in work, rely on food benefits, it was quite an insult to vulnerable people which thankfully was called out by other Councillors.

Rightly, then, inappropriate words are not acceptable today.

Or are they? There are times, it seems to me, when shocking insulting language and barbs are used to troll people and are passed off with merely a tut-tut.

This week, the Labour MP Tracy Brabin wore a dress on the House of Commons, which showed one bare shoulder; for which the abuse on social media heaped on her included being called “a slag”, “a tart”, “about to breastfeed”, “a slapper”, “drunk” and a few other terms even worse.

As we know in Northern Ireland, women in politics get some vicious personal stuff thrown at them, and the offending trolls are hardly censured.

I wonder, too, what will happen (if anything) to the loyalist pastor and former friend of Willie Frazer who launched an attack on the GAA, calling it “Fenian, dark and hellish” in a Facebook film he posted of himself, in which he included offensive remarks about the late Seamus Mallon.

Personal abuse isn’t just confined to social media, either.

Apparently, some of the terraces in Irish League football are regularly using choice language to insult visiting goalkeepers, and in England there have been examples of fans racially abusing players.

To social media and football grounds, you can add the pubs and streets of England late last Friday night as Brexit finally released little Englanders of the bondage of European oppression. One RTE reporter had to abandon his piece to camera as drunks shouted “f..k the Pope”. One wonders what the Holy Father, from Argentina, attempted to do to prevent Brexit.

Elsewhere, there were clips of celebrating Englishmen singing all sorts of songs, littered with anti-Irish sentiments.

There doesn’t seem to be much control of all this; I suppose we live in an age where insulting people of difference is almost admired in certain quarters. Just look at Katie Hopkins.

Mind you, we’ve hardly been set an example at the highest level. Donald Trump’s presidency has been marked by lies, insults and threats. Yet it would seem that pundits reckon he may well win a second term at the White House.

In Britain last year, the House of Commons became an angry bearpit over Brexit. Boris Johnson, who has an uneasy relationship with truth, has been accused of using racist language in the past, describing people in Africa as “flag-waving piccaninnies” and others with “watermelon smiles.”

His reward, of course, was for the voters to give him the keys to Number 10, where his unelected henchman, Dominic Cummings can decide which journalists can be invited in and which can be excluded.

Anyway, overall it seems to me that in some cases insulting and inappropriate racism, sectarianism and homophobia are called out. In other forums they are brushed off.

What does all this say to our younger people, who are growing up in a tougher, harder world. Compassion and kindness, we should always remember, are still to the fore and the majority of people show such qualities.

But more and more, we’re getting a nastier agenda where words are used to troll, demean and hurt people.