Belfast Telegraph

Election posters put on bonfires

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has called for respect for different identities after Sinn Fein and Alliance election posters were put on bonfires.

Images of South Belfast MLA Anna Lo and MEP Martina Anderson were placed on the piles of waste in Bangor, Co Down.

Mr Nesbitt called for their immediate removal.

He said: "It is perfectly possible to celebrate one's cultural identity without having to resort to burning election posters or seeking to offend anyone else.

"I have previously called for actions to be lawful and peaceful, but it is equally important to stress that they must also be respectful."

Last Tuesday the Ulster Unionist Party tabled a motion at Stormont regarding parading, which called on all sides to show respect, restraint and tolerance for those of differing opinions.

The Strangford MLA added: "The bottom line is that you cannot ask to be shown respect if you yourself are not prepared to show respect to others."

Bonfires are lit by unionists across Northern Ireland on the night of 11 July as part of annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations.

Stewart Dickson, Alliance MLA, said the placing of posters of Ms Lo on bonfires in Carrickfergus and Bangor showed gross intolerance.

He added: "It is hypocritical for the organisers of these bonfires to call for respect for their culture when they are burning posters of politicians.

"The people who are seeking to burn our posters are obviously threatened by our message of building a shared future free from the divisions of the past. Their actions will not stop us from working to bring an end to the politics of 'them and us'."

He was concerned that some bonfires include a large amount of tyres.

"This poses a serious health risk to those watching the bonfire and those in the surrounding area, including young people.

"This is not about stopping bonfires taking place, but ensuring that they are built in a respectful and safe manner."

The moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church Dr Michael Barry said the use of posters on bonfires was unacceptable.

"I would ask organisers to remove such images immediately and refrain from burning any items which increase tension and which serve no helpful purpose. Items, such as flags or effigies or indeed anything that would cause offence, should not be burnt.

Our Presbyterian theme this year is 'a people of service and outreach'. I would remind people that we cannot serve others if we are attacking them. We are to treat all people with respect and dignity because they have been created in the image of God.

"We would encourage all who participate in public parades and protests to obey the law and avoid any behaviour which is not for the overall good of society and respectfully urge those parading organisations which espouse Christian values to uphold those values through behaviour in the public square which honours the Lord Jesus Christ and reflects the teaching of the scripture."

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