The defacing of an Orange Order billboard close to Belfast city centre is a sign that some people “can’t tolerate” anything that reflects Orange or unionist culture, Rev Mervyn Gibson said.
The Order’s grand secretary was commenting after someone defaced a campaign poster promoting safer and more family-friendly Twelfth of July celebrations.
“It’s sad that some individuals can’t tolerate anything Orange or unionist about the place,” Rev Gibson said.
On the billboard close to the M3 – advertising the Grand Lodge of Ireland’s ‘It’s about the battle not the bottle’ campaign – seemingly professionally made stickers in the form of speech bubbles were placed adjacent to the pictured Orangemen.
One contained the words, “I’m a massive bigot,” with the other stating “So am I”.
The heading on the Belfast Orangefest billboard reads: Heritage, Tradition, Respect, Remembrance, Culture.
Rev Gibson said the Order’s campaign would continue despite posters being vandalised, Orange halls being repeatedly attacked and ongoing attempts to “denigrate” cultural activity associated with the unionist tradition. “It’s sad that someone wants to disrupt a campaign that seeks to make the Twelfth of July a better occasion for all communities – a campaign that has been widely welcomed across the political spectrum over the years,” he said.
“The campaign will go on because it is the right thing to do. The wrong thing to do is to deface posters, the wrong thing to do is to attack [Orange] halls, the wrong thing to do is to denigrate a community’s culture and traditions.”
However, Rev Gibson added: “We would like to thank those who defaced the poster for the additional free advertising.”
One comment posted below a picture of the defaced billboard on Facebook said: “Does that make the vandals more, or less bigoted than the people they are attacking?”
In June 2015 a billboard poster close to the city centre – advertising the opening of the Museum of Orange Heritage – was moved away from the Carrick Hill area.
The company responsible for the hire of the billboards declined to comment on claims it had been relocated following complaints from Carrick Hill residents.
At the time, an Orange Order spokesman said it was unfortunate some people “would rather display intolerance”.