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Frazer's disgust over placard on bonfire mocking murdered dad

Willie Frazer
Willie Frazer
His father Bertie, who was killed by the IRA in 1975
Placard on bonfire

By Stewart Robson

Victims' campaigner Willie Frazer has said he "judges Sinn Fein by their actions and not their words" after a placard mocking the murder of his father Bertie was placed on an internment bonfire in Newry.

Mr Frazer, who lost five close family members during the Troubles including his father said the personal attack was "disgusting".

Parties from across the political spectrum, including Sinn Fein, condemned the display as a "hate crime".

The home-made placard says 'Willie Frazer have you found your daddy yet?'

Mr Frazer, who works on behalf of Families Research and Policy Unit, said that although he appreciated Sinn Fein's condemnation, he believed its response was "from the lips out", citing the party's presence at a recent hunger strike commemoration.

He added that the "personal" placard was an attack on the families that he represents as well as his own.

"I'm disgusted. It's one thing to burn a flag, because you nearly expect it in this country, but this is a personal attack on the family directly," he said.

As well as Mr Frazer's UDR father being murdered by the IRA in August 1975, two uncles and two of his cousins were killed between then and 1988.

One of the uncles died just 10 weeks after his father.

Last Sunday leading figures from Sinn Fein attended a hunger strike commemoration in Castlewellan.

Mr Frazer said the party's condemnation - in light of its presence in Castlewellan - was inconsistent.

"One contradicts the other. You can't glorify terrorists on one hand and say you deplore somebody attacking the people and the families that they actually murdered," he said

"Plus, my argument would be that if Sinn Fein were serious and wanted to move community relations on, they had every opportunity with McCreesh Park. It would have helped community relations, not only in Newry, but in the Newry and Mourne area."

Raymond McCreesh Park is named after a member of the IRA's South Armagh 'brigade' who died on hunger strike. The park is around half-a-mile from where the bonfire is situated.

Mr Frazer added: "The only good thing I see out of this is that it must be getting to them (Sinn Fein) because I know I'm controversial, there's no point saying that I'm not, but I never run an individual down personally. It's the cause. I never get involved in actually attacking the family."

The Markethill man added that every day is still a struggle for him and his family. "My family doesn't deserve it. My wife hasn't a political bone in her body," he said.

"The likes of this does annoy her and I can see where she's coming from, but this isn't going to deter me.

"I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing irrespective. I've been encouraged by the amount of support I have got, even by the people in the nationalist community."

Political figures have spoken out in support of Mr Frazer.

DUP leader Arlene Foster labelled the placard as "hate-filled", while Alliance's Stephen Donnelly described the sign as "inhumane and disgusting".

Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady said: "Such actions are hate crimes and have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with republicanism or the legacy of internment.

"It is anti-republican, and does not celebrate any aspect of Irish national identity or cultural traditions.

"Throughout the North, Sinn Fein has been working with communities to provide positive alternatives to bonfires, and the number of them has been greatly reduced as a result.

"The kind of mindless, hate-filled displays on the Newry bonfire are further evidence of the need to continue that work."

In a separate incident, a flag with the crest of Hanover FC, a Mid Ulster football team, was placed on another internment bonfire in Craigavon.

The flag was taken to the European Championships in France two years ago in support of the Northern Ireland football team.

Hanover FC said: "As a community-based football club, we believe this to be a serious hate crime and feel that this flag has been placed upon the fire due only to the fact that it has the constitutional flag of this country displayed upon it."

Internment began on August 9, 1971.

The Army's Operation Demetrius involved the arrest of 342 people, all of them from the nationalist community.

Belfast Telegraph


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