'Civic leadership on bonfires needed' - PSNI chief

Credit: Sinn Féin West Tyrone

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has described the burning of election posters and effigies as "distasteful" but says it is an issue that requires civic, political and societal leadership rather than police enforcement to solve.

Mr Hamilton was addressing policing issues around 11th Night bonfires an Twelfth of July parades.

Asked about those who had put election posters for nationalist and republican candidates on bonfires, he said, "I don't think it does those who are creating the bonfires and celebrating their heritage in that way any credit at all to be engaging in such instances of hate".

He said the solution must be "from the community up", but added that evidence had been gathered and where appropriate, police would pursue prosecutions.

Michaela Boyle, a Sinn Féin MLA for West Tyrone, had earlier expressed her sadness at seeing her election posters on a bonfire in Artigarvan, near Strabane.

"I feel more a sense of sadness, than any other emotion, at seeing images such as these, she said, adding that political representatives from all parties needed to "speak out against all forms of hate crime, no matter how and where it raises its head".

However, Ms Boyle emphasised that such activity around the 11th night bonfires "in no way reflects the attitudes of the vast majority of people from the broader community, of a unionist background, from Artigarvan or elsewhere".

She said she had received phone calls and social media messages from local people distancing themselves from this sort of activity, which she described as "very heartening and offers great hope for future".