Belfast Telegraph

DUP Pengelly defends 'free society' remarks over bonfire election posters

It comes as Arlene Foster condemned Martin McGuinness effigy on bonfire as 'wrong'

By Claire Williamson

DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly has sought to clarify comments she made about "free society" when questioned over the burning of election posters and effigies on Eleventh night bonfires - which were met with criticism.

The PSNI said it was investigating complaints about "distasteful" materials placed on some bonfires.

It comes after a coffin with the face of the late Martin McGuinness was placed on a bonfire. The election campaign posters of Sinn Fein and SDLP politicians were also placed on the bonfires as well as a racist banner about Celtic footballer Scott Sinclair.

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking on the Twelfth condemned the placing of an effigy of Martin McGuinness on the bonfire calling it "wrong".

Ms Pengelly's initial comments were made as the south Belfast MP posted a picture of herself online at the Twelfth of July celebrations with a message stating that "respect goes both ways".

She said: "We have heard much in the last months from Sinn Fein about rights and respect. It is time our traditions, identity and cultural expression were fully respected by all - not trampled on and opposed at every turn! Respect goes both ways!

The SDLP's Seamas de Faoite, who ran unsuccessfully in the General Election for east Belfast, asked: "I agree Emma, respect goes both ways, so what about others affording myself and my party colleagues some respect by not burning us in effigy on bonfires across Northern Ireland last night?"

In response the DUP MP said she does not like "trolling, offensiveness and hate towards any person because of political religious or any other status".

She added that: "When we look at so many places that outlaw opposition and public expressions of it we should actually recognise and appreciate that right. That's a right I would actually fight to protect."

Her comment read: "We live in a free society within the UK where opposition, offensiveness and flag burning is not outlawed.

She continued: "We have laws to protect people when it crosses a line.

"I and the DUP, have been subject to incredible offensive behaviour due to our (perceived at times) political belief (see recent Gay Pride marches, banners, posters etc ). Zero condemnation by others here about that.

"I strongly dislike and feel offended by it - but ultimately people here and across UK and ROI have the right to do it regardless of our like or disagreement with it.

"When we look at so many places that outlaw opposition and public expressions of it we should actually recognise and appreciate that right. That's a right I would actually fight to protect.

"I hate no-one. That's the way I was brought up and absolutely core to my values. We must all work to ensure everyone is valued and all our traditions and identities are respected - that's what I work for."

Pengelly's position seemed to be supported by her party colleague and fellow MP Ian Paisley Jr, who tweeted a picture taken at a recent Pride event in London with parade-goers holding up a banner reading: 'F*** the DUP'.

 

In a later statement Ms Pengelly said she wished to clear up any "ambiguity".

She said: "For anyone trying to read any ambiguity into anything let me be absolutely clear (and I have said this repeatedly) - All terrorism is wrong, that includes associated flags and emblems.

"Hate crime is wrong and there must be zero tolerance of it. All bonfires, and cultural expression, should be done in a respectful way.

"I have always stated that including publicly on many platforms. You can see that from my Twitter feed.

"I will work with everyone including all my political colleagues and the PSNI with the community to ensure that happens.

"I welcome the peaceful parades across Northern Ireland yesterday and that should be recognised by all. Respect goes both ways and must be core to our society."

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