Sickening sectarianism
Sickening sectarianism


The Democratic Unionist Party has caused a furore by issuing conflicting statements about the burning of a coffin effigy of the late Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness on a loyalist bonfire in east Belfast on Tuesday.

Mr McGuinness died in March at the age of 66 following a serious illness.

This year saw the usual spate of serious sectarianism at ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfires and the burning of effigies and election posters of nationalists. However, the incineration of a mock coffin bearing a photograph of the face of Mr McGuinness, accompanied by the message ‘F*ck the IRA’, has sparked widespread disgust.

On Tuesday, DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed those who criticised loyalist bonfires, saying they “should dial down the rhetoric”. She also urged bonfire builders “not play into the hands of those who want to demonise the culture (sic)”.

A newly elected DUP MP also defended the burning of flags and effigies on loyalist bonfires as “public expressions” of opposition within a “free society” and a “classic liberal approach”.

Emma Little Pengelly, MP for Belfast South, also insisted that “respect goes both ways” and published a picture of herself attending a parade by the anti-Catholic Orange Order.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams condemned what he said was “evidence of a nakedly sectarian strand within Orangeism”.

He also dismissed claims by Foster of a nationalist “cultural war” against the Orange tradition, pointing to the hundreds of Orange Order parades which took place on Wednesday.

“The most blatant examples of sectarian aggression and racist hatred were apparent around some bonfires, particularly in Belfast,” he said.

“The burning of Sinn Fein election posters, the hanging of effigies, the coffin bearing a likeness of Martin McGuinness, the KAT (Kill All Catholics) slogan, all of these and much more should have no place in any society,” he said.

Mrs Foster subsequently admitted said the bonfire effigy was “wrong”.

“I do condemn that because it is not the way in which we celebrate our culture,” she said.

“It is wrong and it shouldn’t have happened. In Fermanagh we don’t have any bonfires, it is unfortunate when things like this happen”.

When images of the effigy first emerged, Mr McGuinness’s son Emmett said on Twitter he was raised “never to hate anyone or anything”. He added: “The annual display of hate must end.”

Sinn Fein national chairperson Declan Kearney also called the McGuinness display “a particularly sickening manifestation of hate”.

“This is the action of hate-mongers intent on indoctrinating bigotry and perpetuating sectarian divisions in our society,” he said. “It is also grossly insulting to the McGuinness family which still mourns the loss of a much loved father, brother and grandfather.”

Mr Kearney said unionists must show “leadership” and call “for an immediate end to these sickening displays”.

“It is also grossly insulting to the McGuinness family which still mourns the loss of a much loved father, brother and grandfather,” he said.


Meanwhile, the British government and Belfast City Council have ruled out compensating residents of an apartment block damaged by a giant loyalist bonfire in the city centre.

Sandy Row was one of the sites where Belfast City Council agreed to store pallets for bonfire builders at ratepayers’ expense.

Windows in a high-rise building off Victoria Place in central Belfast shattered and other scorch damage was sustained during the bonfire on Tuesday night.

It was the most dramatic incident of the loyalist ‘Eleventh Night’, when scores of towering piles of wood and tyres are set ablaze on the eve of the anniversary of a 17th century battle victory by the Protestant King William of Orange.

However, while the bonfire was burning, a 32-year-old woman was attacked and raped in a neighbouring street, presumably by loyalists who had gathered for the event.

One resident who has lived in the same building for several years branded it an annual “night of hell”. The man, who left his flat to stay with relatives overnight, added: “It’s horrific.”

In east Belfast, missiles were thrown from a bonfire into the nationalist Short Strand, while a petrol bomb was thrown at a hall adjacent to a Catholic church in Stewartstown, County Tyrone.

Doors and windows of several homes were also damaged at a bonfire built in a mixed area of the County Tyrone town of Dungannon.

Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy described it as an “intolerable situation”.

“The bonfire was erected in Killymerron Park which is a mixed area and this year it was built particularly close to residents’ homes,” he said. “It was so close that it ended up melting the PVC windows in a number of homes. Glass was also broken due to the heat.”

He accused unionist parties of failing to address issues with bonfires. “Residents should not have to live in fear in their own homes,” he said.

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