05 July 2021

Northern Ireland committee head apologises for ‘offence’ caused by bonfire tweet

05 July 2021

The chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has apologised “offence” caused by a tweet about loyalist bonfires.

Senior Conservative MP Simon Hoare has since deleted the post on Twitter that said: “Who knew William of Orange arrived in Ireland with hundreds of wooden pallets hence the traditional pallet burning fiesta began.”

The tweet was criticised by members of the loyalist community and was deleted soon afterwards, before Mr Hoare issued an apology.

He said on Twitter: “Earlier I posted a Tweet which was never intended to cause the offence it has to some in NI.

“I want to say fully &unequivocally that I am sorry. I intended only to be humorous/tongue in cheek & I got it wrong.

“I hope my apology will be accepted. It is sincere & heartfelt.”

Among those to respond to the apology were Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who wrote “That’s fair Simon” followed by three hand-clapping emojis.

Former Labour MP Kate Hoey, who recently appeared at a loyalist rally in Newtownards, rejected the apology.

She tweeted: “Sincere and heartfelt ?? Well we will see if he can refrain from his regular snide remarks and obvious anti Unionist and loyalist views and his pandering to nationalists and the Irish Government.”

Kate Hoey (PA Wire)

Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who led the condemnation of Mr Hoare’s original tweet, said resigning from the committee would be “the appropriate course of action”.

But others criticised Mr Hoare for issuing the apology.

Days ahead of the July 11 bonfires which precede the traditional day of parades on July 12, to mark the anniversary of King William of Orange’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne, a number of political posters, including Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance material, have been seen on some pyres.

Irish tricolours and EU flags have also been seen on some bonfires.

In another tweet, Mr Hoare clarified this was the target of his criticism.

He said: “My point is the dangerously high pallet structures and risks they create to public health. There’s also no need to cover them with posters/images of political opponents. That’s plain divisive.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long is among the politicians whose posters are on bonfires.

She tweeted: “I get trolled a lot, falsely accused of hating loyalists and unionists. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’d love to know what those people make of loyalists burning my image in an act of intimidation and blatant hatred.

“Burning people’s images isn’t culture, folks.”

Mr Beattie tweeted his opposition to the burning of election posters and flags on bonfires, describing it as “not an expression of unionist culture”, adding: “It’s an expression of hate.”

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