Northern Ireland

Aontú candidate's home targeted with 'shocking' sectarian graffiti as police launch hate crime probe

Graffiti sprayed at the Newry home of Aontú council election candidate Sharon Loughran, which police are treating as a hate crime.
Graffiti sprayed at the Newry home of Aontú council election candidate Sharon Loughran, which police are treating as a hate crime. Graffiti sprayed at the Newry home of Aontú council election candidate Sharon Loughran, which police are treating as a hate crime.

An Aontú candidate for the upcoming council election has described the targeting of her Newry home with loyalist graffiti as a "violation".

Newry and Mourne District Council candidate Sharon Loughran said the appearance of slogans at her house between Sunday night and Monday morning has caused "significant stress" and she has met with police over the incident that saw "Aontú IRA" and "UDA" sprayed at the property.

Police have said they are treating the incident as a hate crime, and have urged anyone with information to contact them.

Ms Loughran, who works as a paedeatric nurse at the Emergency Department of Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital, said discovering the graffiti was a "massive shock" and accused those responsible of "sectarian intimidation".

"It is an attack on my home and it is a violation. As a result, it has created significant stress," said Ms Loughran, who is also a campaigner to save emergency surgery services at Daisy Hill.

"I work for everyone in the community. Our campaign to save surgery services is of benefit to everyone living in Newry and beyond," she said.

“This attack on my home is also incredibly wrong as it tries to link Aontú with a prescribed organisation. Aontú is four years old. We didn’t exist during the Troubles. We are a grass-roots political organisation with no links to any outside organisation at all.

"Most of our members were never members of any other political party and are new to political activism. Indeed, since our formation we have reached out and met with many within the Protestant and unionist community."

Ms Loughran added that she "would not be intimidated" by the incident.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the incident was a "shocking effort to intimidate a community activist out of running for council", adding: "Its an attack on the democratic process."

A PSNI spokesperson said officers were investigating a report of criminal damage in Newry's Damolly area.

"Enquiries into the incident, which is being treated as a hate crime, are ongoing," they said.

"Anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area, or who has any information which could assist, is asked to contact police on 101, quoting 402 17/04/23."