BBC journalist Andrew Sparrow has been attacked in the Irish Republic for “trolling” colleague Emma Barnett over her critical analysis of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

Sparrow, who works for BBC 6 Music, deleted a Twitter post on Tuesday which was supportive of young people standing up to the government on a range of issues.

However, he has been hit with claims that he caused “ongoing distress” to Barnett, 46, who was one of the two presenters to report on Varadkar’s visit to the Antrim city on Wednesday.

Mr Sparrow defended his views against what he claimed were criticising comments made by his BBC colleague.

He later deleted a tweet which appeared to suggest that Barnett was being “bullied” by a section of the #NotForThisDay campaign.

#NotForThisDay as I’ve said before, everyone has their version of what went on today, so here’s mine. It took place in full knowledge of my overall stance. I have seen so many posts doing this and I am heartened by the participation of people across the country in all parts of the campaign – and particularly support in Belfast #NotForThisDay – that make this weekend a glorious day. But nothing that has happened, today, was cause for ongoing distress. I did not intend to glorify the funeral of Pete.

But we are here to hold those in power to account, and to support the fact that it is wrong for people to argue that those of a different religious background should be put in an awkward position by ministers. It is amazing to see how quickly some of the so-called martyrs, in Antrim yesterday, were thanking the survivors for their strength of character – and for backing Pete’s cause.

The couple’s daughter left the Emigrant team shortly after the passing of police officer Nicola Wallace, who was killed while trying to stop a suspected racist car from taking her brother home. The officers’ families told The Gazette: “Every single parent here will dread the day they leave this organisation. They are already grief-stricken and in shock by how yesterday has turned out.

It’s with that in mind that we said that we should provide Lucy and Luke with £100 to help them deal with having to share Lucy’s funeral with Nicola Wallace’s family. However, Liam says that the family have fallen through the net of several money-raising organisations and every penny has been met by a single penny from the public, including the BBC. This is absolutely incredible and humbling to all of them.”

Messages were also left on Sophie Humphrey’s Twitter account supporting Barnett.

I’ve only known Emma for 3 years but have found her very witty, able and sensitive. A great success story for Ireland.

Trying to find out if @BBC6Music is also participating in this #NotForThisDay campaign today. Trying to get them to go on record but for now we’ll just do what we can. https://t.co/K2k8QDIjRr — Sophie Humphrey (@sophiehumphrey) September 12, 2018

Brexit reporter Laura Kuenssberg, who also works for BBC 6 Music, also tweeted about the event.

England’s Brexit minister Jon Cruddas was also in Dublin to pay tribute to Mrs Wallace, who died on Tuesday night after her brother, Liam, 25, found her body in a car she was trying to stop being stolen.

Tracey Neville, MLA for Antrim, told The Gazette that she will not leave the family’s grief out for Louise Barnett’s children to bear, adding: “They are young people for crying out loud.”

The Bord Gáis Energy chairman used a Tweet to say: “Liam’s wife, Lucy, and their family are heartbroken.”