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Vile sign mocking Willie Frazer's murdered father is a shameful act

The sign mocking Willie Frazer's murdered father on a Newry anti-internment bonfire is a shameful act which reflects badly on those who were responsible and is unfortunately a further depressing example of the intolerant attitudes that exist in sections of our divided society.

Police are treating the sign, on a bonfire in the Parkhead area, as a hate incident and there is no doubt the vast majority of people will be appalled at such vile abuse in relation to a victim's family.

Bertie Frazer was a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldier who was shot dead by the IRA in 1975.

Willie Frazer has come to public prominence as a campaigner on behalf of the victims of republican violence.

A similar sign referring to Mr Frazer and his father appeared on a bonfire at Carnagat Road in Newry at this time last year and was roundly condemned on that occasion.

It is appalling that such offensive sentiments have appeared again this year and shows that those behind the bonfire are largely immune to criticism or the threat of prosecution.

Nevertheless, it is important that local political representatives send out a firm rejection of this type of behaviour and the fact that all the main parties have been unequivocal in their condemnation is entirely appropriate.

In addition, Tanaiste Simon Coveney described the sign as 'disgusting' while Church of Ireland bishop of Down and Dromore Harold Miller added his voice to the expressions of revulsion, saying such 'dehumanising and demeaning messages conveying hate and causing hurt' are not acceptable.

There is also the question of why there is an anti-internment bonfire being built in Newry?

For many years now republicans have moved away from such displays in favour of more positive and constructive events.

Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady said that the Newry bonfire has nothing to do with the legacy of internment and is 'anti-republican.'

He will freely admit that the bonfire builders are unlikely to take heed of his views but it is worth making the point that these pyres - should they be in Newry, Belfast or elsewhere - do not enjoy wider community support.

As with the towering Twelfth bonfires in loyalist areas that pose a danger to property, are an environmental hazard and a burden on the emergency services, public patience is wearing thin.

Anti-internment bonfires in nationalist areas need to be consigned to the past.

We also need to see the PSNI take action against those behind hate-filled messages, wherever they appear.

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