Belfast Telegraph

Secretary of State Julian Smith says loyalist Finucane banners 'utterly offensive'

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Secretary of State Julian Smith has said that loyalist banners targeting election candidates Claire Hanna and John Finucane are "utterly offensive".

Banners attacking Sinn Fein's North Belfast candidate Mr Finucane and his family have appeared in Belfast and Ballymena. The Lord Mayor is taking on the DUP's Nigel Dodds for the seat.

A banner erected in south Belfast asked if SDLP candidate Ms Hanna will have Shankill bomber Sean Kelly on her campaign team, a claim the party strongly rejects.

The SDLP have decided to stand aside in North Belfast, with Sinn Fein doing likewise in South Belfast to maximise votes for pro-remain candidates.

Shankill bomber Kelly has been on the campaign trail for Sinn Fein in north Belfast.

The Secretary of State told The Irish News the banners were "utterly offensive and have been rightly condemned".

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, he added: "Publication of offensive material, whether or not related to an election, is a matter for the police.”

Council workers had a police escort while they removed one of the banners targeting Mr Finucane from a play park in the Tiger's Bay area of north Belfast.

The PSNI said they have received reports about banners and that enquiries were underway to establish if any crime had been committed.

Meanwhile, a DUP councillor's Twitter profile has disappeared after he retweeted a message from an account praising those who erected the banners, which also mention Finucane's late father Pat.

The solicitor was murdered in front of his family in his Belfast home by the UDA in February 1989.

DUP Mid and East Antrim Borough councillor Marc Collins has attracted controversy in the past for comments made on social media prior to entering politics.

"Well done to the Shankill loyalists who erected the banner today. It has SF foaming at their collective mouths. They don't like the truth," the tweet read.

Nigel Dodds said that the posters had nothing to do with his election campaign and challenged Sinn Fein to condemn every act of violence carried out by the IRA.

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey accused the DUP of having a "selective attitude to violence and sectarianism".

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