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Orange Order must act over bonfire hate crimes

 

Is it not time the Orange Order ceased closing its eyes to the actions of those associated with its July 12 marches?

The burning of the Irish flag on bonfires throughout the North has become such an integral element in loyalist culture that it does not even warrant comment in much of the media any more.

However, we are confronted by sinister new developments in sectarianism in the north.

Effigies of the late deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, in a coffin are now incinerated on bonfires alongside Polish national flags, election posters of Polish Assembly election candidate Magdelena Wolska and Hong Kong-born Alliance Party candidate Anna Lo.

Those responsible should be prosecuted for hate crimes. These appalling acts of sectarianism and racism are new lows - even by the standards of 'normal' July 12 celebrations.

After the Second World War, a body of legislation was put in place in Germany to outlaw all remaining elements of anti-Jewish culture that had grown up around the Nazi party.

Is it not imperative that similar measures be introduced in Northern Ireland to deal with the endemic anti-Catholicism prevalent in large parts of the unionist facade?

What if every Bastille Day the Union flag was burned across France? Or if every St George's Day the flags of Pakistan, Jamaica, or Nigeria were burned in British cities? There would be harsh diplomatic protests and, perhaps, riots in the streets.

But in Northern Ireland this systematic and deliberate incitement to hatred hardly draws comment from British secretaries of state, unionist politicians, or the British Government.

TOM COOPER

Chair, Irish National Congress, Dublin

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