Northern Ireland

UUP leader slams actions of some in unionist community who "shame us all"

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie. Picture by Mark Marlow/PA Wire
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie. Picture by Mark Marlow/PA Wire Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie. Picture by Mark Marlow/PA Wire

UUP leader Doug Beattie has hit out at those within the unionist and loyalist community who have "undermined" Twelfth of July celebrations with acts including sectarian displays at bonfires.

The Upper Bann MLA said the actions of some had brought "shame" on unionism  as they "wanted to stoke the fires of intolerance and hate".

Mr Beattie highlighted the burning of nationalist election posters and flags on 11th Night bonfires - including images of Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar - and also the torching of a car belonging to Aontu party representative Sharon Loughran in Newry, which police are treating as a sectarian hate crime.

Ms Loughran works as a paediatric nurse at Newry's Daisy Hill Hospital.

The UUP leader also said those who complain about pro-IRA singing at other times of the year, but remain silent on incidents during the Twelfth period were "hypocrites".

"Communities have celebrated both the 11th and Twelfth in the spirit that it was intended," Mr Beattie said.

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"They have attempted to make it inclusive, family-orientated, a genuine community celebration.

"Sadly, there are those within communities and our society who have completely undermined those celebrations with their actions belittling the Twelfth activities."

The UUP leader added: "The placing of flags and effigies on bonfires, the assault of ambulance staff and the burning of a car belonging to a paediatric nurse and former election candidate for Antou have shown the very worst in some people.

"In these cases, it is clear, a criminal offence has been committed but it has also damaged the image of the Twelfth and unionist culture, history and identity.

"Those who complain around individuals singing pro-IRA songs, itself hurtful to many victims, then remain silent when this activity takes place are hypocrites.

"Those who stoke the fires of intolerance and hate must take responsibility for their actions and words."

He added: "As a unionist I want to promote our shared history, culture and traditions but the actions of some shame us all".