Police in Northern Ireland are treating graffiti targeting actor James Nesbitt as a hate crime.

A message threatening the Cold Feet and Bloodlands actor was daubed on a wall in Portrush, Co Antrim.

It appeared weeks after Nesbitt was the keynote speaker at an event in Dublin organised by a campaign group advocating for a united Ireland.

The threat to the Northern Ireland-born actor referenced the British King and Crown and also included a hostile reference to the Pope.

A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "Police in Coleraine received a report of graffiti on a wall in the Bushmills Road area of Portrush on Wednesday 19th October.

"The graffiti is believed to have been written on the wall some time between 5pm on Tuesday and 7.30pm on Wednesday evening and is being treated as a hate crime."

The graffiti has been condemned by local political representatives.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said Nesbitt should be free to express his views.

"Jimmy Nesbitt is a local lad who has invested in his own community," said the DUP representative.

"Those painting threatening graffiti such as this should stop. Their actions are wrong and to be condemned.

"I fundamentally disagree with Mr Nesbitt's position on Northern Ireland’s future but he has every right to express his political views in whatever forum he wishes. He should be able to do so free from fear.

"That’s a democracy and it’s why I have opposed Sinn Fein all my life as they believed you could justify violence at the same time as doing politics.

"We must be consistent in always opposing violence as well as any threat of violence and attempted intimidation."

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald said the graffiti represented an attack on freedom of expression.

"The appearance of threatening and sectarian graffiti directed at James Nesbitt in Portrush is disgusting," she said.

"These threats are an attack on the right to freedom of expression. They come only weeks after James Nesbitt addressed thousands of people in Dublin from right across the political spectrum to discuss the future of the island of Ireland.

"This is clearly a sinister effort to silence debate and intimidate people from joining the discussion.

"There is no place in society for the threats and hatred directed at James Nesbitt.

"Political leaders should stand shoulder to shoulder in opposition to these threats.

"Those responsible for this hate crime should be held to account.

"Anyone with information on those responsible should bring it forward to the PSNI."

Source: Press Association.