An IRA memorial in County Fermanagh was spray-painted in the latest in a series of sectarian attacks in the north of Ireland.
The number of sectarian incidents in the North saw a substantial increase during the Protestant marching season, reaching a climax after the Orange Order’s ‘Twelfth’ (of July) marches in honour of the Protestant victory at the Battle of the Boyne over a Catholic army.
The IRA memorial commemorates two IRA men, Sean South and Fergal O’Hanlon, who were killed on an attack on Brookeborough barracks in 1957.
The memorial was spray-painted red, white and blue in the shape of a Union Jack, as well as red paint sprayed over two adjoining statues.
The large stone memorial, at Altawark crossroads, has been targeted a number of times in the past by vandals.
Local Sinn Fein councillor Brian McCaffrey urged more unionists to condemn the attack saying they need to “step-up” and defuse rising tensions.
Dubbing it a “pointless attack”, Councillor McCaffrey said the loyalists responsible offered nothing for the community.
“The time has come for local unionist politicians to step up to the plate. They must loudly and openly condemn and disassociate themselves from this type of action,” he said.
“This is a pointless attack which will only serve to further raise tensions.
“It also has the side effect of exposing the bankruptcy of hard-line loyalism. It is clear that this is all they have to offer the community.
“If they fail to do so their lurking in the shadows will be seen as tacit approval.
“The fact is that these vandals are not coming from 100 mile away, they come from within the community.
“I would appeal for people not to retaliate but I can’t guarantee that they won’t do so.
“None of this serves a purpose, it has a danger of cranking tensions especially around the marching season.
“I have lost count as to how many times that monument has been attacked, it’s well into the double figures.”
Local republicans are said to be considering an investment in CCTV cameras to prevent further attacks from happening. The cost of repairing previous attacks has reached thousands of pounds, they said.
In response, one local unionist councillor Paul Robinson later told a local newspaper that the attacks “shouldn’t happen”. The DUP man said he believes “it’s all coming from the flag issue [protests over flags at Belfast city hall] but that shouldn’t come into it. These attacks don’t help the situation nor does it gain anything.”
Meanwhile, Senior Sinn Fein members today [Friday] met with the Apprentice Boys in Derry after paint appeared on their memorial hall in the city this week.
“We are all absolutely disgusted at this attack,” Sinn Fein’s Raymond McCartney said.
“We’ve all seen in recent weeks and recent months the great steps taken in this city and the memorial hall and the Apprentice Boys have all been part of that story.”
The paint appeared ahead of the Apprentice Boys’ main sectarian parade of the year, the ‘Relief of Derry’, commemorating a 17th century Protestant battle victory over the forces of the Catholic King James. It was said to be the third attack on the hall in recent weeks.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who this week condemned the Orange Order for continuing to attempt to hold banned parades in nationalist north Belfast, differentiated the two orders.
He said the Apprentice Boys “play a positive role in the life of Derry”. And in an unusual post to his Twitter internet page, he said the recent “shameful attacks” on the Apprentice Boys’ memorial hall should be condemned.
Halls owned by the Orange Order have also been afflicted by paint attacks recently, with green and yellow paint appearing on the walls of one hall in the overwhelmingly nationalist town of Bellaghy, County Derry last Saturday morning.
Ulster Unionist representative Sandra Overend described that incident as “a disgusting attack on the Orange culture”.
She said it was the second paint attack on Bellaghy Orange hall in less than a week.
“I have spoken to members of the Orange in Bellaghy and they have again insisted that they will rise above such provocation and not let it deter them from their beliefs. I commend them.”
In other incidents, a video showing a man scaling a flagpole and removing a British Union Jack flag outside a west Belfast Orange hall is being investigated by the PSNI who described the incident as ‘theft’.
The PSNI also removed an Irish flag from the grounds of a disused PSNI police base in Dungiven, County Derry this week, without explanation.