'Enough is Enough' | 

Belfast councillor says Twelfth of July bonfire threats are ‘out of control’

Séamas de Faoite was speaking after election posters of Sinn Féin, SDLP, and Alliance politicians were burned in the Cregagh area of east Belfast last night as part of the Eleventh Night celebrations.

A bonfire in the Cregagh area of east Belfast that reads "All Taigs are targets"

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

An SDLP councillor in Belfast has said that “enough is enough” when it comes to tolerating sectarian threats on Twelfth of July bonfires in the north.

Séamas de Faoite was speaking after election posters of Sinn Féin, SDLP, and Alliance politicians were burned in the Cregagh area of east Belfast last night as part of the Eleventh Night celebrations.

He said that the council and the PSNI must act to put an end to “out-of-control bonfires” that seek to “stop people from doing the work that they were elected to do.”

“Unfortunately, it isn’t the first time we’ve seen ourselves be targeted like this,” he told sundayworld.com.

“At the bonfire in Orangefield, there was a direct attack at my party in a neighbourhood where I’ve done a lot of work in improving the area and improving the park itself. There was a large sign saying ‘SDLP not welcome in Orangefield’.

“My colleague Matthew O’Toole’s election poster was placed on the Cregagh bonfire alongside that sign that said ‘All Taigs are targets’.

“I spent a significant amount of time around the Cregagh estate with residents there on a number of different issues. I’m not going to step away from that work and I’m not going to be intimidated away by people who think they can pose threats like this.

“Any intimidation like that shouldn’t be accepted and we as a council should be stepping in to act on that. We really need to come to a point now, 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, where we have to say enough is enough.

“There is an onus on us as elected representatives in the council, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and in Westminster to seriously take a look at our approach to peace building.

“But it’s clear that more work needs to be done to take them on.”

He believes that “thugs” who burn slurs next to pictures of politicians would not get away with this behaviour south of the border.

“I was talking to a friend of mine who used to work for the Irish government and he was saying ‘Can you imagine what would happen if this happened in the south?’

“Whether it was the case of bonfires being draped in Union flags, it would be condemned by everybody. It just wouldn’t be accepted or tolerated.”

Cllr de Faoite said that these actions do not represent the whole community, who are celebrating the Twelfth “in good faith and it’s part of their culture, their heritage and tradition”.

“I know quite a few people – friends, family members – who've been celebrating over the last night or who have been involved in the parades and the events of today.

“All of us are let down by these people who insist on putting effigies of people on bonfires or putting up posters that are designed to intimidate people out of areas or prevent elected representatives from getting on with doing their job.”

It comes after Sinn Fein councillor Gary McCleave revealed his children asked him why “daddy is on a bonfire” after one of the Eleventh Night pyres in the city featured the politician’s poster.

One of the Lisburn and Castlereagh councillor’s election posters featured prominently on the Highfield bonfire in Belfast, which he slammed as a “hate crime”.

As well as a couple of Irish flags, the pyre featured election posters belonging to People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll and Sinn Fein MLA Pat Sheehan with the sectarian slur ‘KAT’ painted on a board below it.

A large banner on the bonfire read: “HF bonfire here to stay. F*** SF/IRA. Culture B4 cash.”

Councillor Gary McCleave shared an image of the bonfire in the Highfield area before it was lit and tweeted: “Tonight I am having to answer questions from my children who came across this on social media why their daddy is on a bonfire to be burnt.

“This is not culture, it is a hate crime. Those within political unionism need to show leadership & stand up against this sectarian hatred.”

Representatives from Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and People Before Profit have all condemned the actions with some calling for unionist politicians to act.

North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly said that his party Sinn Féin has reported various “hate crime” incidents to the PSNI.

"The burning of flags, posters and effigies on bonfires is wrong, deeply offensive and is a hate crime," he said.

"Sinn Féin has reported a number of hate crimes to the PSNI related to bonfires.

"There is an onus on unionist political and community leaders to stand up against these displays of sectarian hatred and make it clear that there is no place for them in this society.

"It is also deeply concerning that some of the bonfire builders are warning people that some bonfires they intend to light are unsafe.

"This highlights the need for safeguarding regulations which has become an imperative.

"No bonfire should pose a threat to the safety of people, property or the environment.”

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