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Anger as election posters placed on Artigarvan bonfire

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Anger as election posters placed on Artigarvan bonfire thumbnailA large number of election posters which have been erected on to a bonfire at Artigarvan.

ANGER has been voiced after a large number of election campaign posters were placed on a bonfire at Artigarvan, near Strabane. The incident, which emerged yesterday (Tuesday) on social media, has been strongly condemned, with some politicians branding it a 'hate crime'.

It also sparked a flurry of criticism online with those commenting unanimously condemning the structure and its contents. Among the posters on the bonfire are those belonging to Sinn Fein, SDLP and the Alliance party, including West Tyrone SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan and Sinn Fein MP., Barry McElduff.

Condemning the incident, Mr McCrossan branded the incident a 'hate crime'.

"Who would be proud to define this as their culture? Hate crime is a more fitting description, theft another! Does this really represent you?," he said.

Also reacting angrily was local MP, Mr McElduff. Commenting on his Twitter page he said: "Some unionists in Artigarvan think it is fun or 'culture' to burn election posters of elected representatives. This is hate. No laughing matter. SF will be reporting this hate crime and asking PSNI to move in and remove these posters."

Stephen Donnelly, who ran unsuccessfully for the Alliance Party in the NI Assembly elections in West Tyrone, was also one of those whose poster was erected at the site. Speaking yesterday, he challenged the bonfire organisers to 'show leadership' and remove the posters.

He has also claimed the action was disrespecting the many Alliance supporters in Artigarvan and surrounding areas.

Commenting on his Twitter page, Mr Donnelly said it was 'discomforting' to see his face on a bonfire.

"But it won't stop me working for all people, including loyalists, in our community," he said.

Speaking yesterday afternoon to the Strabane Weekly News, Mr Donnelly said: "While it's disappointing to see and obviously we would like to see these celebrations carried out in a way that respects shared space and is not insulting to the rest of the community, it is disappointing to see this happen."

He added if people had frustrations with politics he would rather they engaged with him directly rather than through what was potentially criminal behaviour.

 

"I certainly think the police need to take what has happened into account and we need to recognise this is totally unacceptable behaviour because it does compromise shared space. Indeed I think that it does create extraordinary tension and damage relations not least because of the fact I am aware we have supporters and Alliance Party members in Artigarvan and this is supposedly being done in their name whenever, quite clearly, this is something that is absolutely out of touch about how they feel about the matter," he said.

Mr Donnelly said he was 'thick-skinned' and could take things like this 'on the chin'.

"When you become involved in Northern Irish politics you know what you are getting yourself involved with. This kind of activity is a retrograde step and those who have organised these kind of bonfires with election posters on them should show some leadership and take these posters off so we can have a much more respectful environment in which these celebrations can take place.

"It won't deter me from going to Artigarvan. We have supporters, voters and members there and if anything I don't really feel sorry for myself, I feel sorry for them as these things are supposed to be done in their name," he said.

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