Former South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew has called on Unionist leaders to address the “culture of hatred associated with bonfires” after an effigy of her was hanged and burned in Dungannon.
Underneath a model of Mrs Gildernew on Moygashel bonfire, was a sign that read “Sinn Fein scum hands off our culture. Public hanging at 10.30.”
After voicing her disgust at the act of “bigotry” the Sinn Fein representative and mother of three received messages of support from both unionists and British people.
One Tweeter said: “These people have no idea what being British is about. (sent with love from Britain)”
Whilst another said: “People need to call it as it is. The hanging effigy of Michelle Gildernew at Moygashel is an implied death threat and act of intimidation.”
Hitting out at police inaction, Mrs Gildernew said in a statement: “It is unacceptable for the PSNI to hide behind the stock response that they need community support in order to tackle these type of crimes.
“They are being paid to prevent and stop crime. It’s time they stopped facilitating the litany of lawbreaking associated with the annual bonfire season.
“When are we going to see some courageous leadership from political unionism and the Orange Order when it comes to this hate filled practice of burning of effigies, flags and election posters on bonfires?” She asked.
“Not satisfied with insulting the entire nationalist community by burning our national flag and candidates’ election posters the organisers of these bonfires have now taken to burning effigies.
“A disgusting display of bigoted sectarianism is the bonfire at Moygashel depicting an effigy of myself accompanied by a message declaring it to represent a public hanging. It also makes reference to a quote by former Ulster Unionist Leader, Tom Elliott when he referred to Sinn Féin voters as scum.
“With that kind of leadership is it any wonder that these Neanderthals think this type of insult is part of their culture.
“The Orange Order also claims that bonfires are an important part of protestant culture and should be welcoming to families. How can these displays of naked sectarianism be welcoming to anyone?” She went on.
“If the Orange Order and political unionism are sincere about wanting nationalists to respect their culture then they need to address the ‘bigotfest’ that bonfires have become. They also need to come out unambiguously in their condemnation of these hate crimes by assisting the PSNI in identifying those responsible.”