Northern Ireland

‘All taigs will be crucified’ - sectarian abuse by loyalist gang stealing posters branded ‘desperately sad’

Husband of SDLP candidate reveals details of confrontation with gang after they pulled down election posters possibly to use on bonfire

SDLP Councillor Donal Lyons confronted the gang late on Wednesday evening
SDLP Councillor Donal Lyons confronted the gang late on Wednesday evening

Young people inheriting old prejudices is sad and depressing, the husband of SDLP South Belfast and Mid-Down candidate Claire Hanna said after a late evening confrontation with a gang of election poster-stealing youths.

One of the youths, part of a gang pulling down the posters possibly to be used in a bonfire, at one point shouted that all “taigs” should be “crucified”.

Abuse and threats were thrown at Donal Lyons, an SDLP councillor, when he came across the gang after being called by a constituent and told the posters were being pulled down in the Rosetta area of the city.

“I think it’s desperately sad to see young people inherit the old prejudices. We’ve seen no significant progress by Stormont to move us beyond sectarianism,” said Mr Lyons. “Much of the good work that does go on is in spite of the Executive and not because of it.”

He added: “South Belfast is a live-and-let-live community for the most part.”

The late-evening drama began after the constituent made contact about “a gang of young lads taking down Claire’s election posters”.

SDLP councillor Dónal Lyons. Picture: Mark Marlow
SDLP councillor Dónal Lyons. Picture: Mark Marlow

“So I went and try to get them back,” he said. He came across the young people along Flush Park possibly moving towards the Cregagh estate.

Mr Lyons stepped out of his car and asked the youths to “put the posters down and you are grand, otherwise this is going to the PSNI”.

Some of the posters were dropped as the gang walked away, but some began their worst abuse when a safe distance.

Gang of youths with election posters taken down in South Belfast
Gang of youths with election posters taken down in South Belfast

One shouted: “All taigs will be crucified you, f****** republican rat.”

“That was depressing,” said Ms Hanna, who is contesting the July 4 election against the Green Party’s Aine Groogan, Michael Henderson, UUP, Tracy Kelly, DUP, and Kate Nicholl of the Alliance Party.

While some of the youths were threatening and abusive, at least one caught on video looked nervous as Mr Lyons asked him to hand over posters he was holding. The youngster said he was given the posters before dropping them.

“They dropped most of them when confronted, along with some scrap wood. I imagine both were destined for the bonfire,” Mr Lyons said.

When asked whether he was concerned for his safety confronting alone a group of at least half of dozen youths late at night, Mr Lyons said: “I was trying to just get the posters back.”

Mr Lyons added: “I do not want this to be seen as some attack on democracy but there is a point to be made here in principle. Election posters are not to be messed with.”

More broadly, Mr Lyons said politicians receive abuse, including online, particularly women, but the atmosphere is heated around elections.

On the campaign rounds, people will honk their horns and give the thumbs up, while others will be “effing and blinding”, he said..