Newry Internment bonfire prompts widespread anger and criticism
A bonfire constructed in Newry to mark last Thursday’s anniversary of internment drew widespread anger and criticism from across the community as references to murdered British soldiers and prison officers, as well as recently deceased loyalist victims’ campaigner, Willie Frazer, were placed on the pyre.
Located at Carnagat on the outskirts of the city, youths – some of whom had their faces covered – placed slogans on the towering structure seemingly glorifying the 1979 IRA bomb attack at Narrow Water which killed 18 soldiers.
While mocking the death of Mr Frazer, another rmessage read: “Join your Da in hell Willie”.
Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady outrightly condemned those responsible saying their actions do not reflect the legacy of internment.
He said: “Sinn Fein condemn the burning of flags, emblems, effigies and posters on bonfires. Such actions are hate crimes and must be eradicated.
“The vast majority of the community is opposed to bonfire and associated display of hate and anti social behaviour. This bonfire has nothing whatsoever to do with the legacy of internment. It does not celebrate any aspect of Irish national identity or culture. This bonfire is not republican, it is not about politics or culture. It is about hate and is anti-community and anti-social.
“It also has brought further pain and suffering to bereaved families.”
SDLP Councillor Michael Savage claimed those behind the construction of the bonfire “ignored the concerns of local residents” and threatened Council staff who tried to remove toxic material from the site and he too condemned the slogans adorning the bonfire.
He said: “The slogans etc that appeared on it speak for themselves and take us back to a time we all thought we’d left behind us. They cause hurt and pain and do nothing to forward any cause and only fan the flames of sectarian hatred.
“This bonfire was erected on a private site that the owner has worked hard with me in recent months to get planning for new much needed social housing for the people of the area. It was erected without the landowner’s permission. I would appeal to those responsible to reflect on what they have done and if they really believe this has made a positive impact on their community?”
Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor described it as “sickening” and said the families of those referred to had suffered greatly “at the evil hands of republican terrorism and it is completely unacceptable that they should have to tolerate this despicable behaviour.”
In a statement police said they recognised “the hurt and frustration that this has caused, to many in the community”.
“The display of this material has been perceived as offensive and distasteful. Police are treating this as a hate incident and should evidence come to light that a crime has been committed and suspects identified they will be brought before the courts.”