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Leo Varadkar condemns burning of political leaders’ effigies on bonfire

Effigies of Sinn Fein leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long were burned in Carrickfergus.

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Craigyhill loyalist bonfire in Larne, Co Antrim, on Eleventh Night (Liam McBurney/PA)

Craigyhill loyalist bonfire in Larne, Co Antrim, on Eleventh Night (Liam McBurney/PA)

Craigyhill loyalist bonfire in Larne, Co Antrim, on Eleventh Night (Liam McBurney/PA)

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has “absolutely” condemned the burning of effigies of Sinn Fein and Alliance leaders in Northern Ireland as “hatred” not culture.

It comes after effigies of Sinn Fein president and vice president Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill, and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long were pictured on the Eleventh Night bonfire in Carrickfergus on Monday.

The PSNI have launched an investigation into the incident.

Over the past few days, we have seen effigies of my party colleagues Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O'Neill, along with Alliance's Naomi Long - in addition to our national flag - being burned on unionist bonfires. This isn't culture, it is a hate crimePearse Doherty, Sinn Fein

Addressing the Dail, Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty called the burning a “hate crime”.

“Over the past few days, we have seen effigies of my party colleagues Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill, along with Alliance’s Naomi Long – in addition to our national flag – being burned on unionist bonfires”, he said.

“This isn’t culture, it is a hate crime. And it is unacceptable.”

He said that Taoiseach Micheal Martin had failed to condemn the incident.

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An effigy of the leader of the opposition burned in a bonfire 90 miles up the road and no official reaction from government. This isn't good enough ...Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein

“Shockingly, we have heard nothing from the Taoiseach,” he said.

“An effigy of the leader of the opposition burned in a bonfire 90 miles up the road and no official reaction from government.

“This isn’t good enough Tanaiste, it’s not good enough also from unionist political leaders, and also not good enough from the PSNI. And it’s not good enough for political leaders in this state.”

He asked Mr Varadkar to join with him in “unequivocally” condemning the effigy-burning.

“I did actually speak on this, on Newstalk yesterday, but happy to repeat what I said yesterday,” he said.

Burning images of other people, burning other country's flags, that isn't culture - that is hatred. It is absolutely wrong, and on behalf of the Government I absolute condemn itTanaiste Leo Varadkar

“It’s not often that you and I agree 100%, but on this occasion I do agree with you 100%.

“What we saw happen in Northern Ireland, effigies, posters of politicians, Michelle O’Neill, Naomi Long, others, mainly female politicians – but not always – being burned is unacceptable.

“The tricolour, the Palestinian flag, you name it, being burned on bonfires in Northern Ireland.”

He said he respected orange culture, and that he had attended an orange order parade in Enniskillen “years ago”.

But he added: “But burning images of other people, burning other country’s flags, that isn’t culture – that is hatred.

“It is absolutely wrong, and on behalf of the Government I absolute condemn it.”


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