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Unionist Leaders must address culture of hatred associated with bonfires - Gildernew

Published: 12 July, 2015

Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew expressing disgust at the burning of her effigy on a bonfire at Moygashel said tonight,

'When are we going to see some courageous leadership from political unionism and the Orange Order when it comes to this hate filled practice of burning of effigies, flags and election posters on bonfires.

"These are hate crimes and should be rigorously investigated as such by the PSNI. It is unacceptable for the PSNI to hide behind the stock response that they need community support in order to tackle these type of crimes. They are being paid to prevent and stop crime. It's time they stopped facilitating the litany of lawbreaking associated with the annual bonfire season.

"Not satisfied with insulting the entire nationalist community by burning our national flag and candidates' election posters the organisers of these bonfires have now taken to burning effigies.

"A disgusting display of bigoted sectarianism is the bonfire at Moygashel depicting an effigy of myself accompanied by a message declaring it to represent a public hanging. It also makes reference to a quote by former Ulster Unionist Leader, Tom Elliott when he referred to Sinn Féin voters as scum.

"With that kind of leadership is it any wonder that these Neanderthals think this type of insult is part of their culture.

"The Orange Order also claims that bonfires are an important part of protestant culture and should be welcoming to families. How can these displays of naked sectarianism be welcoming to anyone?

"If the Orange Order and political unionism are sincere about wanting nationalists to respect their culture then they need to address the 'bigotfest' that bonfires have become. They also need to come out unambiguously in their condemnation of these hate crimes by assisting the PSNI in identifying those responsible." ENDS