Belfast Telegraph

Football team flag placed on internment bonfire 'anti-republican' says Sinn Fein MLA

The placing of a banner from a Portadown-based football club on an anti-internment bonfire is unjustified Sinn Fein's John O'Dowd.

It comes after a flag belonging to Hanover FC was placed on the pyre of a bonfire in Craigavon.

The flag had originally been created by the club to support Northern Ireland's efforts at the 2016 European Championships in France.

The Upper Bann MLA said: "The burning of symbols of a football club and flags which are important to the unionist community is wrong and a hate crime. It is unjustifiable and anti republican."

The club has labelled the action an attempt to "stir up sectarian tensions" and glorify terrorism by dissident republicans.

The club said it believed it was a "serious hate crime" and the flag had only been displayed there "due only to the fact that it has the constitutional flag of this country displayed upon it".

A spokesperson for Hanover FC added: "This flag was designed for club members who travelled to support Northern Ireland in the European Championships in France and we as a club feel that the burning of this flag is nothing other than an attempt by dissident republicans to furthermore stir up sectarian tensions in the local area through the glorification of terrorism.

"We have reported this hate crime to the PSNI and have also notified our local councillors.

**Hanover FC Club Statement ** Following a number of social media posts we have been made aware that our club flag has...

Posted by Hanover FC on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

"We thank all those who have contacted us for their support as always whilst also encouraging those nationalist councillors with contacts in the area to proactively encourage the return of the flag in order to ensure that their community is not now looked upon as a community with no morals who would burn the flag of a local football club that works tirelessly within the community to build strong cross community relationships through sport.

PSNI Chief Inspector Jon Burrows said: "We are aware of the reports that a local football club banner as well as flags have been placed on a bonfire in Craigavon... as ever, a professional, thorough & impartial investigation will take place."

He said an investigation would be carried out by police from the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area. who are investigating offences and gathering evidence.

It comes after a sign appearing to glorify the killing of a victims' campaigner Willie Frazer's father by the IRA was placed on an anti-internment bonfire in Newry.

Mr Frazer's father, part-time UDR man and council worker Bertie, was killed in an IRA gun attack in 1975.

The sign placed on the bonfire reads: 'Willie Frazer have you found your daddy yet?'

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