‘No Irish, no gay’ banner removed from motorway in Northern Ireland

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A “no Irish, no gay” banner which appeared on a motorway bridge in Northern Ireland has been condemned as “despicable”.

It sparked fury on social media on Friday.

No-one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the banner.

It was photographed on a bridge close to Lurgan, Co Armagh on the M1, visible from the Belfast-bound lanes on Friday morning.

Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland later removed it, and are now investigating the incident as a suspected hate crime.

Sean Lawlor was one of the motorists who saw the banner as he drove to work at about 8.40am on Friday.

He said he initially could not believe it.

“On my way to work this morning, I stopped on the hard shoulder of the M1 because I thought I’d forgotten my shop keys,” he told the Press Association.

“After finding them I started to drive off but noticed the sign.

“At first I thought it was one of those birthday signs and couldn’t believe it when I saw what it read. I had to photograph it and tweet it.

“By no means really was I offended, but thought there will be at least hundreds travelling in might be annoyed about it.

“I know my kids would ask why and what is that there.”

The M1 is one of Northern Ireland’s busiest roads, linking the west of the region with the east.

Sinn Fein MLA Declan Kearney said he reported the banner to police.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police received a report of an offensive banner on a bridge over the M1 motorway between junctions nine and 10 on Friday October 19.

“Officers have removed the banner and the matter is being treated as a hate incident with a racial and homophobic motive.

“Anyone with any information is asked to contact officers at Lurgan on 101.”

Mr Kearney described the banner as “reprehensible”.

“Over the summer the largest, most vibrant, colourful Pride parades took place across Ireland, and thousands of people have also taken to the streets in support of Acht Gaeilge,” he said.

“This sent a clear message that the tide is changing.”

SDLP MLA Pat Catney also condemned the banner, and said the views expressed do not represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland,

“For too long anti-Irish rhetoric was deemed acceptable across these islands,” he said.

“These days are long gone and despite the best efforts of some, they aren’t coming back.

“Likewise, spray can warriors will not hold back the progression of LGBT+ rights here in the North.

“These views are not representative of the majority of people in Northern Ireland and they will not be tolerated.”

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