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Kearney advocates zero tolerance and anti-sectarian legislation against bonfire hate crimes

18 July, 2016 - by Declan Kearney

Sinn Féin’s South Antrim MLA and Party Chairperson Declan Kearney has called for a future zero tolerance approach to annual 12thJuly bonfire hate crimes.

Speaking in the wake of this year’s bonfires he expressed particular dismay at the burning of Sinn Féin election posters, GAA material and the Irish national flag at sites in Antrim Town, and about PSNI inaction to prevent such acts of criminality. 

Mr Kearney said; 

“Prior to the 12th July I wrote to the PSNI requesting that appropriate measures be put in place to ensure no hate crimes were allowed to be perpetrated on, or in the immediate vicinity of bonfire sites.

“Clearly the PSNI have failed to prevent such displays this year and I have now lodged a formal complaint along with photographic evidence of bonfires festooned with Sinn Féin election posters belonging to myself and other party colleagues, as well as the Irish national flag and GAA material. Once again an effigy was hung from one bonfire; this time depicting party colleague Gerry Kelly MLA.

“I have also made formal representations to the Irish Government about what happened in Antrim Town over the 11th/12th July period. 

"A combined zero tolerance policing and political approach is required to finally eradicate the naked sectarianism and other forms of hate crime which have become synonymous with so-called celebrations of culture. It is not acceptable that any individual or section of our community should be the target of such hate-filled bigotry. The continued deafening silence from certain political leaders and representatives in the face of these crimes is absolutely indefensible. 

“It is a scandal that children and young people are being exposed to such manifestations of incitement to hatred under the guise of cultural tradition. All bonfire sites must be properly controlled, regulated and completely free from sectarian and racist bigotry.

“Any bonfires within our society which masquerade as celebrations of Unionist or Nationalist culture, but which are in fact excuses for perpetuating division and indoctrinating young people with hate filled sentiments are the opposite of building a shared future. These pyres of bigotry should not be allowed.

“As Sinn Féin’s Justice spokesperson I will proactively investigate the legislative means to effectively tackle all forms of bigotry and hate crime irrespective of its source.

“We must move urgently to adopt a zero tolerance against such crime within our society.  However this will require political and civic support from all sides to bring forward effective legislation which empowers the police and prosecution services to act robustly whenever sectarian, racist or homophobic hate crime occur. I am calling on all political and civic leaders to work together towards that end." 

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