South Antrim MLA Declan Kearney has called for a zero tolerance approach in future to what he has branded “bonfire hate crimes”.
Speaking in the wake of this year’s July 11 bonfires, the Sinn Fein party chairman expressed dismay at the burning of election posters, GAA material and the Irish national flag at some bonfires in the constituency.
“I wrote to the PSNI requesting that appropriate measures be put in place to ensure no hate crimes were allowed to be perpetrated on, or in the immediate vicinity of bonfire sites,” he said.
“Clearly the PSNI have failed to prevent such displays this year and I have now lodged a formal complaint along with photographic evidence of bonfires festooned with Sinn Féin election posters belonging to myself and other party colleagues, as well as the Irish national flag and GAA material.”
Mr Kearney, who was elected to the NI Assembly earlier this year, added: “A combined zero tolerance policing and political approach is required to finally eradicate the naked sectarianism and other forms of hate crime which have become synonymous with so-called celebrations of culture. It is not acceptable that any individual or section of our community should be the target of such hate-filled bigotry. The continued deafening silence from certain political leaders and representatives in the face of these crimes is absolutely indefensible.
“It is a scandal that children and young people are being exposed to such manifestations of incitement to hatred under the guise of cultural tradition. All bonfire sites must be properly controlled, regulated and completely free from sectarian and racist bigotry.
“Any bonfires within our society which masquerade as celebrations of Unionist or Nationalist culture, but which are in fact excuses for perpetuating division and indoctrinating young people with hate filled sentiments are the opposite of building a shared future. These pyres of bigotry should not be allowed.
“As Sinn Féin’s Justice spokesperson I will proactively investigate the legislative means to effectively tackle all forms of bigotry and hate crime irrespective of its source.”