Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill tells those behind bonfire effigy to 'catch themselves on'

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill tells those behind bonfire effigy to 'catch themselves on'

SINN FÉIN Vice President Michelle O'Neill has said those responsible for burning an effigy of her need to 'catch themselves on'.

Her comments came after reports that some Eleventh Night bonfires across Northern Ireland featured effigies, election posters and Irish flags.

The PSNI, meanwhile, has said it is treating such incidents as hate crimes.

Ms O'Neill took to twitter today after an effigy of her alongside Irish Tricolours appeared on a bonfire in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.

"Those attempting to cause offence with effigies etc should catch themselves on and join the rest of us in building a better future," wrote the First Minister Designate.

"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."

'Sectarian hatred'

Effigies depicting other politicians were also reported on the night when bonfires are lit in loyalist areas to begin the Twelfth of July celebrations.

The annual event marks the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In Rathcoole, a bonfire featuring an effigy in a noose was accompanied by a sign with the name of Sinn Féin councillor Taylor McGrann.

Writing on social media after images of the bonfire were shared, Mr McGrann called on unionist leaders 'to stand up against these displays of sectarian hatred'.

"I will continue to work for all communities and if anyone has any issues please get in contact," he added.

Meanwhile, SDLP councillor Gary McKeown and Alliance councillor Michael Long both shared images of bonfires featuring their election posters alongside Tricolours.

Alliance MLA Connie Egan expressed solidarity with those who were the subject of the 'completely unacceptable' displays, but praised those behind the Clandeboye bonfire in Bangor.

"Heartened to see a willow burner, family fun day and no displays of flags, effigies or posters," the North Down MLA tweeted.

"Well done to Clandeboye Village Community Association for organising a positive and welcoming event."

Hate crimes

In a statement to The Irish Post, the PSNI said it had launched investigations into reports of bonfires featuring flags, posters and effigies.

"We have received a number of complaints relating to election posters, flags and other offensive material being placed on bonfires across Northern Ireland," said Bobby Singleton, Assistant Chief Constable for Local Policing.

"We are treating these incidents as Hate Crimes, have gathered evidence, and have commenced investigations."