Police attend as banner attacking family of candidate John Finucane is removed

Police attend as banner attacking family of candidate John Finucane is removed
John Finucane after he delivered his nomination papers to the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland in Belfast. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A banner against a Sinn Fein election candidate and his family has been taken down in North Belfast.

Banners titled “The real Finucane family – human rights abusers” have been erected at a number of locations across the North Belfast constituency where John Finucane is running as a Sinn Fein election candidate.

One of the banners, located in the Tiger’s Bay area, was removed earlier as police attended.

The banner made allegations against members of Mr Finucane’s family, including his father Pat, a solicitor who was murdered by loyalists at the family home in 1989.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said the banners have been reported to police as hate crime.

PSNI Superintendent Melanie Jones said officers attended the removal of the banner in Tiger’s Bay.

“Following a request from Belfast City Council, police were in attendance in the Tiger’s Bay area of North Belfast this morning to ensure the safety of persons removing a banner from council property on behalf of Belfast City Council,” she said, adding that the banners are being investigated.

“Police have received reports about banners erected in North and South Belfast.

“Inquiries are under way to establish if these banners constitute any criminal offence or offences, including a hate incident or hate crime.”

Previously Mr Finucane faced criticism for Shankill bomber Sean Kelly being among his team of canvassers in North Belfast.

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald has defended Mr Kelly’s role, saying he is a supporter of the peace process and had expressed regret over the 1993 fish shop attack which killed nine Protestants.

The row comes in a constituency which is expected to see a close result between incumbent Nigel Dodds (DUP) and Mr Finucane at next month’s General Election.

A spokesman for the DUP said if the issue has been reported to police then anyone with information should help officers with their inquiries.

“We are unaware of the matter,” he said.

“If it has been reported to the police then anyone with information should help their inquiries.

“The DUP consistently condemns violence or anyone inciting hatred. Will SF now condemn those behind the many PIRA murders in North Belfast?”

Founder of victims group Relatives For Justice Clara Reilly described the banners and posters as “appalling” and called for all political parties to condemn them.

“All parties should find condemning this outrageous interference in and threat to democracy easy. Indeed it is their duty to condemn these developments; if they do not, they are complicit in this outrage,” she said.

“My thoughts are with the Finucane family whom I have known personally since Pat Finucane was a newly qualified solicitor. They continue to be an inspiration.”

Alliance Party candidate Nuala McAllister is the third of the three candidates running for election in North Belfast.

The Ulster Unionist Party is not standing a candidate in the constituency in an act of support for Mr Dodds. The SDLP is also not running as part of a pro-Remain arrangement.

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