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Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long PA Images
The North

'It's hate-fuelled': NI Justice Minister hits out over election posters on loyalist bonfires

Irish and EU flags have also been seen on some bonfires.

NORTHERN IRELAND JUSTICE Minister Naomi Long has described the placing of her political posters on loyalist bonfires as a “hate-fuelled” act. 

Days ahead of the 11 July bonfires which precede the traditional day of parades on 12 July, a number of political posters, including Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance material, have been seen on some pyres.

Irish and EU flags have also been seen on some bonfires.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Alliance Party MLA Naomi Long said she has seen her posters being placed on a number of bonfires. 

“It is intimidating, it’s a chilling thing to see,” Long said. “If people are burning your image you do wonder what kind of message they’re trying to send to you as an individual.” 

The Justice Minister said it’s a “very aggressive act to burn someone’s image”. 

“It’s clearly hate-fuelled and I think it has a very chilling effect on those who have to go through it,” Long said. 

“I think unfortunately there are those who are apologists for this who dismiss it, who make it sound like it doesn’t matter. I think it’s important that the entire community are clear that it’s not acceptable for these things to be burnt,” she said. 

“It isn’t an acceptable expression of culture, it isn’t an expression of culture at all. It’s an expression of hate and aggression.”

Long said the burning of posters “does real harm to the loyalist community” because it “undermines their arguments this is about expressing culture and history”. 

Apology over tweet

Yesterday, the chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee apologised for “offence” caused by a tweet about loyalist bonfires.

Senior Conservative MP Simon Hoare’s tweet said: “Who knew William of Orange arrived in Ireland with hundreds of wooden pallets hence the traditional pallet burning fiesta began.”

The tweet was criticised by members of the loyalist community. 

Hoare subsequently deleted the tweet and apologised for it. 

“Earlier I posted a Tweet which was never intended to cause the offence it has to some in NI,” Hoare said.

“I want to say fully & unequivocally that I am sorry. I intended only to be humorous/tongue in cheek & I got it wrong,” he said.

“I hope my apology will be accepted. It is sincere & heartfelt.”

Among those to respond to the apology were Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who wrote “That’s fair Simon” followed by three hand-clapping emojis.

Former Labour MP Kate Hoey, who recently appeared at a loyalist rally in Newtownards, rejected the apology.

She tweeted: “Sincere and heartfelt ?? Well we will see if he can refrain from his regular snide remarks and obvious anti Unionist and loyalist views and his pandering to nationalists and the Irish Government.”

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who led the condemnation of Mr Hoare’s original tweet, said resigning from the committee would be “the appropriate course of action”.

In another tweet, Hoare clarified the placing of posters on bonfires was the target of his criticism. 

He said: “My point is the dangerously high pallet structures and risks they create to public health. There’s also no need to cover them with posters/images of political opponents. That’s plain divisive.”

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