UUP leader calls for immediate removal of election posters from bonfires

A tricolour flies from this bonfire in the Ballycraigy estate in Antrim
A tricolour flies from this bonfire in the Ballycraigy estate in Antrim

Election posters placed on Eleventh night bonfires should be urgently removed, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has said.

Mr Nesbitt spoke out after it emerged that election posters of Alliance’s Anna Lo and Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson were put on a bonfire in Bangor’s Bloomfield estate, while Ms Lo’s poster was also placed on a pyre in Carrickfergus.

Mr Nesbitt said: “I call upon those who have placed election posters on bonfires to remove them immediately.

“It is perfectly possible to celebrate one’s cultural identity without having to resort to burning election posters or seeking to offend anyone else.

“I have previously called for actions to be lawful and peaceful, but it is equally important to stress that they must also be respectful. Last Tuesday the Ulster Unionist Party tabled a motion at Stormont regarding parading, which called on all sides to show respect, restraint and tolerance for those of differing opinions and I would re-iterate that today.

“The bottom line is that you cannot ask to be shown respect if you yourself are not prepared to show respect to others.”

Meanwhile, a senior Orange Order figure has said that he “deplores” the burning of tricolours or effigies of the Pope on 11th night bonfires.

Deputy Grand Master the Rev Alistair Smyth pointed out that the Orange Order did not organise the bonfires but said: “I don’t think that effigies of anyone should be put on bonfires to be burned.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme yesterday, the Rev Smyth also said that he was opposed to any civil disobedience as part of protests against the Parades Commission if such actions entailed breaking the law.

The Deputy Grand Master said that he believed some “garden centre unionists” or “middle-class type Christians” had abandoned people from working-class areas.

He said that in Catholic communities there was not such a stark social divide and a greater sense of unity.

The Rev Smyth and the Rev Brian Kennaway, a critic of the Orange Order and former Parades Commissioner, also clashed during the programme.

The Rev Kennaway was introduced as an Orangeman but when the Rev Smyth said that his understanding was that he was no longer a member, the Rev Kennaway said several times: “I hope you’ve got a good solicitor.”

During testy exchanges between the two Presbyterian ministers, the Rev Smyth said that he believed the lodge in the Republic to which the Rev Kennaway belonged did not have the Rev Kennaway’s name on its membership list.