By Rebecca Black, PA
There have been calls for political leadership after a series of incidents across the weekend, including pro-IRA chants at a concert in west Belfast.
There has been condemnation of scenes of young people taking part in pro-IRA chants at a Wolfe Tones concert on Sunday as part of Féile an Phobail.
Scenes of chanting at the unveiling of a mural of a burning police vehicle have also been criticised. A video which surfaced online of the unveiling of the mural includes chants of “Get the Brits out”.
There has also been condemnation following the emergence of a photograph which appears to show Larne Football Club player John Herron wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Up The Ra”.
Club Statement on John Herron.https://t.co/rm9KMrZke4
— Larne Football Club (@larnefc) August 15, 2022
DUP East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons described the picture as “abhorrent” while UUP MLA John Stewart said Herron should never play for the side again.
Larne Football Club said in a statement on Monday that Herron has been suspended with immediate effect and that an investigation into the incident is under way.
— Gordon Lyons MLA (@gordonlyons1) August 14, 2022
Meanwhile there has also been condemnation of the sale of Parachute Regiment and UVF flags on sale at a parade in Derry at the weekend.
The Parachute Regiment were responsible for the deaths of 13 civilians in Derry during a civil rights march in the city in 1972, an event which has become known as Bloody Sunday.
Derry City and Strabane area commander Chief Superintendent Ryan Henderson said police became aware on Saturday of concerns around a stall on Glendermott Road selling flags and other paraphernalia.
“Our officers attended the location where the stall was and gathered evidence and seized a number of items,” he said.
“Enquiries continue to establish if any criminal offences have been committed.”
DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly described scenes over the weekend as “deeply disappointing” and urged political leadership.
She has called for an urgent investigation around funding from public bodies for Féile an Phobail.
“They are young people, many of them born after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and yet we are seeing this type of glorification of terrorism which is absolutely unacceptable,” she told the BBC.
“Shouting about paramilitary organisations, talking about the things they’ve done in the past in such a way, celebrating that, glorifying that, that is never an acceptable form of cultural expression, regardless of whether that is the IRA or any other paramilitary organisation. We are in 2022, this is not the Northern Ireland that we need to be building.”
Ms Little-Pengelly said recent comments by Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill that there was no alternative to violence in the past, “was not leadership”.
“I am calling on all political leaders, political representatives from across all parties to say very clearly, and send a very clear message today that all glorification of terrorism is wrong, it has to be called out when it happens,” she added.
Alliance MP Stephen Farry described a “very worrying spate of sectarian incidents over the course of the summer from different sections of the community”.
“In particular, young people have been swept up into this,” he told the BBC.
“I think we’re seeing almost a casual sense of sectarianism.
“We have had a real spate of these incidents over the summer and particularly this weekend.
“It does point to the fact that 25 years on from the Good Friday Agreement we have to have that sober lesson that we as a society haven’t done enough in terms of reconciliation and building integration.
“Divisions are very stark still in our society.”
THE BIGGEST FÉILE EVER!
▪️100,000 People in Attendance
▪️85 Debates and Discussions
▪️28 Art Exhibitions
▪️4 10,000 Person Concerts
▪️1 Féile an Phobail
Now for Féile 35! pic.twitter.com/Ha5YrtxN1A
— Féile an Phobail (@FeileBelfast) August 15, 2022
Féile an Phobail director Kevin Gamble said this year was the biggest yet, with around 100,000 people attending more than 350 events.
He pointed out that representatives from all communities were welcomed to various events, and said that no major internment bonfires took place in Belfast due to a dance music night put on by Féile to divert young people.
“The benefit of the absence of these unwanted bonfires on 8th August is significant, as well as the positive images emanating from the festival events showcasing Belfast in a positive light. There is also the considerable benefit to the city’s economy which the associated increase in visitor footfall and spending brings due to Féile,” he said.