By Luke O'Reilly, PA
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has “absolutely” condemned the burning of effigies of Sinn Féin and Alliance leaders in Northern Ireland as “hatred” not culture.
It comes after effigies of Sinn Féin president and vice president Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill, and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long were pictured on the Eleventh Night bonfire in Carrickfergus on Monday.
The PSNI have launched an investigation into the incident.
Addressing the Dáil, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty called the burning a “hate crime”.
“Over the past few days, we have seen effigies of my party colleagues Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill, along with Alliance’s Naomi Long – in addition to our national flag – being burned on unionist bonfires”, he said.
“This isn’t culture, it is a hate crime. And it is unacceptable.”
He said that Taoiseach Micheál Martin had failed to condemn the incident.
“Shockingly, we have heard nothing from the Taoiseach,” he said.
“An effigy of the leader of the opposition burned in a bonfire 90 miles up the road and no official reaction from Government.
“This isn’t good enough Tánaiste, it’s not good enough also from unionist political leaders, and also not good enough from the PSNI. And it’s not good enough for political leaders in this state.”
He asked Mr Varadkar to join with him in “unequivocally” condemning the effigy-burning.
“I did actually speak on this, on Newstalk yesterday, but happy to repeat what I said yesterday,” he said.
“It’s not often that you and I agree 100 per cent, but on this occasion I do agree with you 100 per cent.
“What we saw happen in Northern Ireland, effigies, posters of politicians, Michelle O’Neill, Naomi Long, others, mainly female politicians – but not always – being burned is unacceptable.
“The tricolour, the Palestinian flag, you name it, being burned on bonfires in Northern Ireland.”
He said he respected orange culture, and that he had attended an Orange Order parade in Enniskillen “years ago”.
But he added: “But burning images of other people, burning other country’s flags, that isn’t culture – that is hatred.
“It is absolutely wrong, and on behalf of the Government I absolute condemn it.”