Belfast council workers given police guard to remove Finucane banner from play park
Belfast City Council has removed a controversial banner attacking Sinn Fein General Election candidate John Finucane after it was placed around a play park in north Belfast.
Election & Brexit briefing Newsletter
The PSNI attended the scene in the Tigers Bay area on Monday morning at the request of the council to ensure the safety of those removing the banner from its property.
The banner on the play area on North Queen Street attacked Mr Finucane and members of his family, including his late father Pat, who was murdered by the UDA in 1989.
Lord Mayor Finucane is contesting the North Belfast constituency for the election against the DUP's Nigel Dodds. Banners have been erected in the past week urging unionists to use their vote.
The PSNI said they have received reports about banners and that enquiries are underway to establish if any criminal offences, including a hate incident or hate crime, have been committed.
It's thought more banners have appeared in Belfast and Ballymena on Monday.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald called for an end to the "sinister and dangerous" campaign of intimidation against Mr Finucane.
"The campaign of harassment, intimidation and threats against John Finucane and his family has been appalling and dangerous," she said.
“It is yet another sinister attack on the democratic process in what is fast becoming a toxic and dangerous campaign."
“Threats like this have no place in any election campaign. North Belfast deserves better.
“John Finucane is Belfast’s First Citizen. The Finucane family have fought for 30 years for justice after the assassination of John’s father Pat in 1989.
“With dignity and complete resolve they will continue to campaign and speak truth to power, and will not be silenced or intimidated by anyone in 2019."
Mrs McDonald called on unionist leaders to condemn the banners "in the strongest possible terms".
A DUP spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph the party was unaware of the matter but urged anyone with information to help the police with their investigations.
"The DUP consistently condemns violence or anyone inciting hatred.
"Will Sinn Fein now condemn those behind the many PIRA murders in North Belfast?," the spokesperson added.
Mr Finucane is hoping to unseat DUP MP Nigel Dodds in North Belfast in the upcoming General Election.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA also condemned the appearance of the banners, saying that some have targeted SDLP South Belfast candidate Claire Hanna.
Ms Hanna has been criticised by loyalists after Sinn Fein entered a pact with the SDLP not to stand a candidate in South Belfast on December 12. This was after the SDLP agreed not to run a candidate in North Belfast.
“The banners that have been erected in Belfast targeting John Finucane and Claire Hanna seeking to sow hatred and division are disgusting," he said.
"Those responsible are cynically using, abusing and retraumatising victims for narrow political purposes."
Mr Eastwood also called on the DUP to condemn the banners, saying the "meek rejection" from its spokesperson was not enough.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has called on police to remove a similar banner attacking the Finucane family that has been erected in Ballymena.
“There is no other explanation, reason or purpose for the erection of this banner than as an incitement to hatred," he said.
"That is true when banners have been put up in North Belfast where John is an election candidate and it is doubly true now that a similar banner has been erected in Ballymena.
"It is a sickening attack on John, his family, and the democratic process and should be condemned as such by all right thinking people. I have spoken to the PSNI and reported this banner as a hate crime. It must be removed immediately."
Belfast Telegraph Digital