Northern Ireland news

Police treat threatening Leo Varadkar graffiti as hate crime

Marie Louise McConville

POLICE are treating threatening graffiti about Tanaiste Leo Varadkar 'not to cross the border' as a hate crime.

The message scrawled on a wall in the Belvoir area of south Belfast has since been painted over.

Police, who are investigating, said that the graffiti appeared some time between 6pm on Friday and 10am on Saturday.

First Minster Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill both hit out against the warning to the former taoiseach who has visited the north many times.

Mrs Foster tweeted: "Violence or the threat of violence has no place in democracy. I condemn those behind this.

"The NI Protocol needs replaced but violence or its threat will not achieve the change Northern Ireland needs."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said she was "shocked at the disgusting graffiti targeting Leo Varadkar which I condemn, as will the majority of people across the community.

"This is a hate crime motivated by prejudice," she said.

"It's also criminal damage and anyone with information should contact police who must investigate."

South Belfast SDLP MP Claire Hanna said she had been contacted by residents who were "nauseated" by it.

"These were sickening words that look like they were borrowed from the Ku Klux Klan," she said.

"It's hate crime, incitement to violence and a dangerous escalation of careless language in recent weeks."

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long described the words as "absolutely sick and offensive" with "clearly racist overtones" while Ulster Unionist councillor Michael Palmer said it was "disgusting graffiti" that is "not at all representative of the community".

Meanwhile, Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International tweeted: "Leo Varadkar has been a very welcome visitor to Belfast, whether to the Orange Order or Belfast Pride. That welcome will continue."

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Northern Ireland news