Unionists overreach in pursuit of grievance

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Attempts by unionists to escalate sectarian tensions have included a series of wild claims and exaggerations.

Unionists in Tyrone had expressed outrage that a 26 County Garda police car was photographed travelling through the county, and that a rebel song was sung at the Ulster Fleadh in Dromore.

But the images of the Garda car which sparked an angry DUP response are more than two years old, it has emerged. Images of a marked patrol car said to be travelling near Castlederg in Tyrone were posted online this week.

Despite there being no law preventing Gardai from crossing the border, Derry and Strabane DUP councillor Maurice Devenney claimed there had been an “incursion” by the South into the North. West Tyrone DUP MLA Tom Buchanan wrote to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris asking for the “incident” to be “fully investigated”.

There was no retraction of the claims even after police forces on both sides of the border pointed out that they were invalid.

Unionists also falsely claimed that the PSNI’s Gaelic football team had been forced out of a planned tournament in Banbridge, County Down due to opposition from other teams, when it had in fact they withdrew for their own reasons.

And in a hat-trick of missteps, several unionist politicians, including representatives of the UUP, DUP and TUV, all mistakenly hit out the Ulster Fleadh, a major annual cultural event in Tyrone.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott said he was disturbed after seeing a video in which young people were singing along to a rebel song.

The ‘SAM song’ by popular Tyrone band the Irish Brigade refers to a surface-to-air missile attack by the IRA against British Army helicopters, and is in no way sectarian.

But DUP MLA Tom Buchanan claimed it displayed “hatred and intolerance” by the Fleadh.

“There is a duty on nationalist and republican representatives to properly challenge sectarianism and intolerance when it is on display at an event such as this,” he said.

However, the video didn’t even have anything to do with the Fleadh, which pointed out that it had actually been hosting unionist marching bands, while the video had been taken at an unrelated private event.

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