New Year message on sign designed to stoke up tension

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

New Year message on sign designed to stoke up tension thumbnailThe road sign on the Tandragee Road

VANDALS who daubed sectarian graffiti on a road-sign on the Tandragee Road last Wednesday have been roundly condemned by local councillors.

The Irish language which welcomed visitors to the district on the sign was blacked out, whilst the letters 'UDA' was scrawled onto it - the second time this year that the sign has been defaced.

Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down Council (NMDC) Roisin Mulgrew, branded the incident a hate crime and said that it was designed by the perpetrators to cause maximum fear and division within the community.

Ms Mulgrew said: "It's deliberately sectarian and done to create a fear and intimidation really. Nobody would paint that on a sign for any other reason. It's just something that nobody should make any excuses for and whoever did it should be reported immediately to the police, because that is, in fact, a hate crime.

"When you put something that is deliberately inflammatory and meant to intimidate and put the fear of God into people, that's a hate crime and that's how it should be treated.

"It's small-minded people with little else to do and, not only should they done for hate crime, but they should be made go and scrub it off themselves.

 "People think that that is victimless, it's not victimless, people who have maybe suffered through the Troubles will drive through that and it will put the fear of God into them."

The Sinn Fein Councillor said that those responsible have an innate lack of civic pride.

Cllr Mulgrew added, "Those sorts of slogans are definitely targeted at adding insult and hurt at one section of our community and it's just not acceptable.

"Defacing a sign shows complete contempt for those that live in the area and someone that has no pride or thought for their area or anyone else that lives in it."

SDLP Councillor for Newry and Mourne, Gary Stokes, believes that the inflammatory message was designed to incite ill-feeling, fear and division amongst the community.

 "It's pure vandalism particularly the time of year.

"Who ever did it, that's their New Year's message to the people, vandalism and hatred and wanting to stoke up tension.

"It's people with nothing better to do other than spread hatred and division. It's incitement to hatred, racism, sectarianism, everything that's dividing society whilst spreading fear and intimidation."

Mr Stokes said that these types of incidents only serve to undermine the council's efforts to make the district a tourist-friendly area.

"Unfortunately, it's me, you and every other ratepayer having to put our hands in our pockets to clean it up and, at the end of the day, all that we're trying to do is make our district look welcoming and present it as a good tourist-welcome destination.

"What that tells you is 'Keep Out' when you have incidents like that.

"It's dragging us back thirty years rather than looking forward.

"We want to present ourselves as a welcoming area, where everybody can live peacefully together and instead you get that sort of message of hate and bigotry.

Twenty years after the Good Friday, it's something that we thought should be well behind us now," added Cllr Stokes.

The SDLP representative also urged anyone with information regarding the incident to report it to the police.

 "There's people there who know who did it, and what they should be doing is sending the information on to the police because that sort of thing shouldn't go unpunished."

A PSNI spokesperson said: "Police have received a report of criminal damage caused to a sign on the Drumbanagher Wall Road in Poyntzpass on Thursday, December 28.

"Enquiries into this are ongoing."


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