Peter Robinson slams burning of Polish flags on loyalist bonfires
First Minister Peter Robinson has condemned the burning of Polish flags on bonfires across Belfast on July 11.
He said Northern Ireland had a responsibility for good race relations.
“I think we need to have respect and understanding and tolerance for other traditions in our country,” Mr Robinson (below) added.
Around 30,000 Polish people currently live in Northern Ireland.
In an open letter, the Polish Association made a call for politicians to take action.
Maciek Bator, of the association, said the Polish community “embrace and respect all traditions here in Northern Ireland” but find behaviour such as flag burning “totally appalling and offensive”.
“The Polish flag is a symbol of freedom, independence and peace for the 30,000 Polish people living in Northern Ireland and around 80 million across the globe,” he added.
“By burning the Polish flag and other symbols, some members of the local communities were able to express their strong political views and promote anti-Polish sentiments.”
The flags, along with Irish tricolours, were placed on bonfires in Belfast in the build-up to the Eleventh Night.
An election poster for Polish SDLP candidate Magdalena Wolska was also burned on one of the bonfires.
Peter Robinson said the Polish community had been working to “integrate themselves into our society”.
“I just don’t know what this is about and why it should take place,” he added.
“The one question I always put to myself in these circumstances is — how would I feel if that was my flag on top of that bonfire?”
Alliance MLA Anna Lo described those who burnt Polish flags on bonfires as “bigots” and said she was “utterly appalled” by these actions.
“The Polish community is now the largest ethnic minority community in Northern Ireland and they have been coming for a number of years, settled and have integrated into society,” she added.
“On a so-called community festival night, they then saw their flags being burnt — it’s so hurtful and insulting.
“When you are an immigrant so far from home, you hold symbols like that so close to your heart — it must make them so angry, and make them feel so unwelcome. It’s so disrespectful.”