Northern Ireland

Martin McGuinness image on bonfire 'hate incident'

bonfire Image copyright An Phoblacht

A loyalist bonfire featuring images of the late Martin McGuinness is being treated by police as a "hate incident".

A poster for a charity walk for cancer services, bearing the former first minister's image, was put on a bonfire at Tullyally, Londonderry.

The bonfire was erected in the run-up to loyalist commemorations of the Apprentice Boys siege of Derry on Saturday.

Irish tricolours were also placed on the pyre.

Earlier this week, a republican anti-internment bonfire in Newry, County Down, mocked murdered members of the security forces.

Police said they had liaised with the public in an effort to have the posters removed.

"While the posters were indeed removed for a period of time, they were put back in place before the bonfire was lit," a PSNI inspector said.

"Police recognise the hurt this will have caused to individuals and are treating this as a hate incident."

On Saturday, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader and former first minister Arlene Foster posted a tweet condemning the burning of all flags and posters on bonfires.

She said that bonfires should not be about hate.

Martin McGuinness' son, Fiachra, said in a tweet that people should replace hate with love.

"Replace fear, hate and anger with love and you will be free," he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan said it was "sickening" and the "act of hatemongers".

"This behaviour stands in stark contrast to the work that Martin McGuinness did to build reconciliation," she said.

The Newry anti-internment bonfire referenced 18 soldiers who died in an IRA bomb attack at Narrow Water, Warrenpoint, in August 1979.

The signs also referred to a policeman and prison officer who were murdered by dissident republicans.

Police are treating that as a "hate incident".

Image caption Some of the signs and flags placed on the Newry bonfire

The PSNI's deputy chief constable Stephen Martin tweeted that the Tullyally bonfire was "just as disgraceful" as the Newry one.

He said that whether they were loyalist or republican, both showed contempt for the dead and were "despicable and very hurtful".

Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill also condemned the use of flags and pictures on bonfires.

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