The Polish community in the North have reacted angrily after it emerged that Polish national flags were placed on loyalist bonfires alongside Irish tricolour flags in a public display of racism and bigotry.
The PSNI said they were investigating two incidents of Polish flags being burned on ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfires in east Belfast last week.
Loyalists have frequently targeted foreign nationals in the North for race attacks, particularly those who are likely to be Catholic. While Irish tricolour flags are ritually and habitually burned by loyalists, it is believed to be the first time Polish flags have been burned on their Eleventh Night bonfires.
Maciek Bator, director of the Polish Association of Northern Ireland, said it was a “totally appalling and offensive” act and said his organisation had received several complaints.
“As a community, we are against a society where to affirm one identity, others are denied respect and dignity,” he said.
Mr Bator called on “all political and community leaders” to take “urgent action to stop hatred and bigotry”.
Among the other items burned last week was an election poster for the SDLP’s Polish candidate, Magdalena Wolska.
SDLP councillor Claire Hanna said the burning was “yet another worrying symptom of the fact that we stili have people in the north who cannot accept difference”.
Meanwhile, loyalists have hacked down goalposts for the second time in a month at a County Down Gaelic sports pitch used by children. The latest attack on the newly installed posts at council-owned playing fields in Kilkeel saw the uprights cut completely to the ground.
Nationalists reacted angrily last month when the uprights at Carginagh Road were hacked down to the size of soccer goals by loyalists using heavy cutting gear. The word ‘British’ was also stencilled into the posts, days after a Union Jack flag had also been flown from one of the uprights.
And a 14-year-old boy was grabbed by the throat and punched in the face by loyalist band members after he attempted to cross the road while a parade was taking place, it has emerged.
The teenager was seized by one male band member and attacked by another during the parade on Wednesday June 30 in Magherafelt, County Derry.