Angry backlash over senior Tory MP’s ‘sneering’ at loyalist bonfire culture

A senior Conservative MP has been accused of “sneering” at the loyalist/unionist community after a Twitter message mocking the burning of pallets on Eleventh Night bonfires.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 7:27 pm
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 8:12 pm
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne pictured on Monday, July 5 in the Craigyhill housing estate. Pic: Pacemaker

Simon Hoare, who chairs the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) at Westminster, provoked an angry backlash yesterday by tweeting: “Who knew William of Orange arrived in Ireland with hundreds of wooden pallets hence the traditional pallet burning fiesta.”

Belfast loyalist and community worker Stacey Graham described the tweet as the “perfect example of systemic bias against unionist culture,” and added: “Belittling comments like this and consistent reinforcement of this false narrative and stereotypes only creates further alienation and lack of participation from loyalists.

“What we are seeing now from unionists/loyalists is a reaction and rejection of this narrative and unless the system changes, how loyalists engage with it, will not.”

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Another loyalist activist, Jamie Bryson said: “More sneering from Simon Hoare of the Conservative & ‘Unionist’ party. His disdain for the unionist community in NI is no longer even barely concealed.”

Among the hundreds of other comments, a number of people asked Mr Hoare if he sneered at his own constituents who light bonfires on November 5.

One said: “Yes, Simon, bonfires. I wonder do you hold the same contempt for the Guy Fawkes equivalent?” while another said: “I’m not sure how the very real issues around bonfires can be solved. I’m certain sneering condescension won’t be any part of the answer.”

The criticism of Mr Hoare wasn’t confined to unionists.

The Slugger O’Toole website editor Mick Fealty said: “You many feel such deep revulsion in your bones, but as Chair of the Commons NI Select Committee you really shouldn’t feel compelled to share every last little thing that comes into your head Simon.”

Many of the comments in response to Mr Hoare’s tweet called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to remove the North Dorset MP from his position as NIAC chair.

“He is neither unbiased or remotely suitable for the role ... this latest outburst proves that,” one said.

“This person should be removed as Chair of the NI Select Committee immediately @BorisJohnson,” another Twitter user said.

In a further tweet shortly before 8pm on Monday, Mr Hoare said: “Earlier I posted a Tweet which was never intended to cause the offence it has to some in NI. I want to say fully & unequivocally that I am sorry.

“I intended only to be humorous/tongue in cheek & I got it wrong. I hope my apology will be accepted. It is sincere & heartfelt.”

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