DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has condemned the burning of “placards, flags or pictures of serving politicians” after a number of campaign posters and portraits of political figures were set on bonfires on July 12.
In a statement, Mr Donaldson said: “While the overwhelming number of the Twelfth Celebrations were hugely successful, some events require further work and other performances must be clearly condemned as false.”
“All my life I have had the privilege of celebrating and educating others around the world about my identity. At no time were burning placards, flags, or pictures of serving politicians shown as part of it.
“Nor shall there be any slogans or displays advocating sectarian violence against anyone in this society, regardless of their political position or religious beliefs.
“I was also appalled to learn that decorations of the Twelfth in County Tyrone had been destroyed and other hate crimes against loyal orders across the province had to be investigated.
“We have a rich Ulster British cultural identity. I want people to focus on celebrating and showing our culture rather than denigrating others.
“When Republican terrorists launched a hate campaign against people of my faith, I condemned and opposed it. If someone tries to incite hatred, I will challenge and oppose it.”
The DUP leader added: “All politicians in Northern Ireland must consistently condemn hate.”
Sir Jeffrey’s comments come after an image of Naomi Long and Sinn Féin leaders Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald was described as “absolutely ill” by the Justice Secretary.
The Alliance party leader said images of the Glenfield campfire in Carrickfergus had been shared with her and confirmed she had forwarded them to the PSNI.
The sights of election posters hanging around campfires and sectarian slurs have once again made headlines in recent days, drawing condemnation from across the political spectrum.
Ms Long said she had “got used to” seeing her posters burned at the stake and said she “thought nothing could shock me more”.
“Last night I received photos of my likenesses @moneillsf and @MaryLouMcDonald hanging around the campfire at Glenfield in Carrickfergus,” she tweeted.
“I am not sharing the images because of the risk of distress to families who have lost loved ones to suicide. And because they are totally sick.
“I will, however, share them and the pictures of the campfire builders proudly standing in front of their creation with the police.”
The east Belfast politician said the pictures had made her “physically ill”.
“These weren’t last-minute additions. There are photos of a “fun day” for children held by this fire while our likenesses hung from it. Some local businesses even sponsored it,” she added.
“What parent would see that and think it’s acceptable for their child to see it?
“These photos made me physically nauseous – not only because of the likenesses, but also because of the festering hatred and sectarianism they portray; Hatred that not only persists in our community but is passed on to the next generation quite naturally. That has to stop. Our children deserve better.”
Her party colleague Stephen Farry expressed his support and called it “absolutely disgusting”.
“Solidarity with Naomi and everyone else who has been threatened and abused around campfires,” he added.
South Down Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard called it “willful, despicable hatred”.
“During the Assembly election campaign, some of our South Down billboards were damaged when the faces of Michelle and Mary Lou were cut out with a knife
“We knew they would probably show up later.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie called it “absolutely abhorrent”.
“Hanging images on campfires doesn’t represent the unionist culture that I believe in,” he said.
“Silence cannot be an option.”
In a statement about the likenesses, Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said it was “false, deeply offensive and a hate crime”.
“Sinn Fein has reported a number of campfire-related hate crimes to the PSNI,” he added.
“It is the duty of union political and local leaders to stand up against this display of cult hatred and make it clear that they have no place in this society.
“Also, it just isn’t good enough for campfire builders to say they made a ‘democratic choice’ to commit hate crimes.
“Police say they have gathered evidence of these hate crimes, what the public needs to see is action.
“All of this underscores the need to protect regulations around campfires, which has become a necessity.”
On Tuesday, Sinn Féin councilor Gary McCleave revealed his children asked him why “daddy is burning on a bonfire” after the politician’s poster was seen on one of Eleventh Night’s pyres in Belfast.
Meanwhile, DUP MLA David Brooks slammed “pathetic scrawled messages” at an east Belfast bonfire after a series of sectarian slurs and election posters were pictured at the stake.
In a statement, the PSNI said: “The Police Service is aware of and is investigating the images that have emerged showing effigies placed on a campfire in Carrickfergus.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/dup-leader-sir-jeffrey-donaldson-condemns-effigies-of-sinn-fein-and-alliance-politicians-on-bonfires-41837983.html DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson condemns images of Sinn Féin and Alliance politicians on bonfires