Northern Ireland news

PSNI probes racist banner against Celtic footballer Scott Sinclair on Belfast bonfire

The banner was placed on a bonfire in the car park of Avoniel Leisure Centre
Brendan Hughes

POLICE are investigating after a racist banner against Celtic footballer Scott Sinclair was displayed on an east Belfast bonfire.

The banner was placed on a bonfire in the car park of Avoniel Leisure Centre with the message: "Scott Sinclair loves bananas."

Celtic fans in Belfast condemned the racist slur as "absolutely disgusting".

It comes just days before the Scottish team competes against Linfield at Windsor Park in a Champions League qualifier.

The loyalist bonfire site was one of four that were subject to a High Court injunction secured by Belfast City Council.

The action was taken last week in a bid to prevent further material being added to the pyres.

Belfast City Council said the banner "could constitute a technical breach" of the injunction, but did not say whether it would pursue further legal action.

In a statement a spokesman said: "It could constitute a technical breach of the injunction but it is more likely to constitute a hate crime and therefore should be reported to the PSNI."

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Police are investigating complaints about various materials, some of which are clearly distasteful, placed on the bonfire.

"Where police are aware of a crime being committed, an investigation will follow.

"We take hate crime very seriously and actively investigate all incidents reported to us.

"Hate crime is wrong on all levels and the PSNI will do everything it can to ensure that everyone, from whatever background, can live free from prejudice, fear and discrimination."

Images of the racist banner were widely circulated online yesterday.

The display had been removed from the pyre when The Irish News visited the site.

Seamus Darragh (39), chairman of Celtic supporters' club Dicey Reilly's, condemned the banner as "absolutely disgusting".

"No human being's colour of skin should ever be described in that manner. It's just despicable," the Belfast man said.

"It is absolutely disgusting of the highest order. How can they justify that being culture?

"It's nothing but downright racism. It's an absolute disgrace."

Ex-Liverpool footballer and sports pundit Stan Collymore tweeted an image of the racist display, adding: "Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, her Majesty's most loyal subjects have a fun, culturally enriching bonfire."

In May, Mr Sinclair (28) held aloft a T-shirt with an anti-racism slogan following a match, just days after he was targeted by a Rangers fan making a monkey gesture.

At the time Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers, from Carnlough in Co Antrim, said the footballer's team-mates had been helping him following the racist incident.

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