Responding to the burning of effigies of a number of political leaders, including Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and Deirdre Hargey, at loyalist bonfires Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said:
“The burning of flags, posters and effigies which included First Minister Elect Michelle O’Neill, party leader Mary Lou McDonald and other political figures on bonfires is wrong, deeply offensive and is a hate crime.
“Sinn Féin has reported a number of hate crimes to the PSNI related to bonfires.
“There is an onus on unionist political and community leaders to stand up against these displays of sectarian hatred and make it clear that there is no place for them in this society.
“The silence from some senior unionist leaders to date has been deafening.
“It is also simply not good enough for bonfire builders to say that they ‘took a democratic decision’ to commit hate crimes.
“The police say they have been gathering evidence on these hate crimes, what the public needs to see is action.
“All this highlights the need for safeguarding regulations around bonfires which has become an imperative.
“No bonfire should pose a threat to the safety of people, property or the environment or be an excuse for people to vent hate.” CRÍOCH/ENDS