North Antrim Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that the police need to step up to the mark in stopping the occurrence of hate crimes in the area.
He said: “The previous weekend we saw the burning of pictures of local election candidates, of Irish flags, of Dunloy and Loughgiel GAA banners at bonfires in North Antrim.
“This is hate crime. It instils in young people that those on top of their local bonfires are figures to be hated and to be loathed. It is not harmless and can of course lead to those being singled out being targeted at a later date. It is my opinion that the police do not take this seriously enough. The placing of posters of young women such as Leanne Peacock and Patrice Hardy on top of a bonfire is appalling. The police should have made greater efforts to remove these. The excuse that the police are afraid to upset a number of teenagers guarding such displays is not good enough. In the absence of community leadership concerning such events the police still have a duty to uphold the law, in this case the law pertaining to the incitement of hatred.
“The police have successfully secured convictions against those involved in incitement to hatred on social media. It is about time this was also done in regard to bonfires.
“Equally appalling is the accommodation of the burning of tyres. The council, the NIEA and the police need to be working together collectively to secure their removal, not passing the buck. They can all take some responsibility for the appalling amount of tyres burned in North Antrim poisoning those living in those areas.
“Hate crime from any quarter must be condemned outright. The attack on Ballycastle Orange Hall does not represent the people that live there. I will not be found wanting in attacking each and every hate crime in this area, it is a pity that other local MLAs will not do the same.”