12 July 2023

O’Neill urges people burning effigies of politicians to ‘catch themselves on’

12 July 2023

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill has urged people burning effigies of politicians on loyalist bonfires to “catch themselves on”.

Ms O’Neill was among those whose images were burned on bonfires on July 11, the eve of Orange Order parades across Northern Ireland.

Her image appeared on the pyre in the Eastvale area of Dungannon on Tuesday as bonfires in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland prepared to be lit as part of the annual July 12 celebrations.

Ms O’Neill leads Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, which won the most seats in the Assembly election, entitling her to be nominated as the first nationalist or republican first minister.

But the Stormont Assembly remains collapsed amid DUP protest action over post-Brexit arrangements.

A depiction of Sinn Fein councillor Taylor McGrann also appeared on a bonfire in Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of north Belfast.

Police are investigating both incidents as hate crime.

Irish flags were also burned on a number of bonfires, while representatives of a number of other parties, including Alliance and the SDLP, also reported seeing their images on bonfires.

These actions have been condemned by politicians across the divide.

Ms O’Neill said those involved in burning effigies should instead be helping to build a better future.

“Those attempting to cause offence with effigies etc should catch themselves on and join the rest of us in building a better future,” she tweeted.

“I am determined to be a first minister for all. I will represent the whole community irrespective of who you are and where you come from.”

Ahead of the bonfires, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urged against the burning of flags and election posters as “self-inflicted wounds” for unionists.

Around 250 bonfires were lit as part of the annual July 12 celebrations, marking the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II in the Battle of the Boyne to secure a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.

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