ON the day that Ku Klux Klan flags appeared in Belfast, supporters cheered those who were getting sentenced for their involvement in the killing of Coleraine community worker Kevin McDaid.
That is not normal, civilised, or acceptable in a society which is telling the world it is capable of government.
Several of those sentenced had previous convictions, which is surely an indication that the law is not working and certainly not achieving the level of shame or remorse that should accompany hideous crimes such as the killing of Kevin McDaid and the brutal injuries suffered by others.
This case surely raises serious issues about the effectiveness of the hate laws as they are presently constituted and their relativity (given that the defendants were loudly cheered in court).
These laws must be reviewed to establish why such behaviour can happen with no indication that hate crimes are on the wane.
On the contrary, the appearance of Ku Klux Klan flags is an indication that the law is to be treated with contempt, as happened in court this week.
There is much to be learned from the tragedy in Coleraine, but if the rising scourge of hate crime is not addressed then there will be more tragedies and more cheering in courts.
JOHN DALLAT (SDLP)
MLA for East Londonderry