Man who wrote racist slogan on bonfire avoids jail

Picture By: Pacemaker
Picture By: Pacemaker

A man convicted of displaying threatening or abusive material after a racist slogan appeared on a loyalist bonfire, has avoided jail.

Colin White, 19, from Farmhill in Antrim, was found to be responsible for the message on the gigantic bonfire on loyalist Ballycraigy estate.

He is the first person in Northern Ireland to be convicted of stirring up hate by writing a racist message and was given an 18 month probation order.

Among the slogans on the bonfire – which was bedecked with Irish tricolour flags – was one which included a racial slur and referred to disliking black people.

A prosecutor told the court a man contacted police in relation to a racist slogan which read: ‘We’re not racist, just don’t like n---as”.

The court heard that police issued pictures seeking idenitification of an individual to various news outlets, White came forward to police to confirm he was the person in the images.

Back in December, White had contested the charge and denied that he committed the offence.

Defending Barrister Aaron Thomson told Antrim Magistrates Court that White has now admitted he wrote the slogan.

Mr Thompson added his client is very easily led and “would do anything if it makes him think he would fit into a peer group.”

“He is going to carry this with him in Antrim for many years,” he added.

He said White was “stupid enough to spray the words in broad daylight in front of a photographer, none of that explains away the public horror of all this.”

District Judge Alan White said that he took into account White’s reported learning difficulties and accepted he may have been influenced by others ‘in pursuance of their hateful agenda’.

In December the court was told that Mr Peter Glover had visited the bonfire and took photos of it from his car and noticed the divan on the bonfire.

He said that he observed three people walking towards the divan and could see the defendant moving his arms as if writing something and afterwards there was racist graffiti on it, ‘We’re not racist, just don’t like n----rs”.

At the time Judge White said he believed Mr Glover’s evidence was “honest and accurate” and he said he had no doubt the defendant had written the words on the divan.