MERSEYSIDE Police are investigating the burning of an Irish tricolour flag, apparently outside the Orange Lodge HQ in Everton.
The incident, which took place earlier this month, has sparked fury in Liverpool's Irish community with calls for it to be investigated as a hate crime.
Merseyside Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy has condemned "acts which damage community cohesion" as deplorable and one local councillor described it as “totally alien” to the views the vast majority of people in Liverpool hold.
On the liverpoolirishblog site the video at the end of this was posted with the blurb “Members of the Orange Order in Liverpool reached a new low when they burned the Irish Tricolour flag on the grounds of the Provincial Orange Hall on Everton Road. This was preceded by a march by the Apprentice Boys of Derry through Liverpool city centre earlier.”
It goes on for five minutes – but viewers are given the gist of it in the first – and appears to show a mob of young men singing sectarian songs and repeatedly attempting to torch the Irish national flag with lighters.
However, the Liverpool Province Orange Order says that it is neither racist nor sectarian. On its own website, to which visitors are greeted to non-stop refrains of The Sash, it claims “racism and bigotry would not be a Christ-like characteristic”. It adds: “We encourage tolerance and goodwill towards members of different beliefs.”
Neil Doolin, organiser of Liverpool's pro-Republican Irish group, Cairde na Eireann, called for the local Orange Order to denounce the actions, which, he said, had no place in a city like Liverpool.
“The Orange Order really needs to get its act together as a result of this incident and see it in the context of its members continually being involved in a level of anti-Irish sentiment that has no place in a modern European city such as Liverpool.”
He added: “Acts like this as shown in the video, damage community relations and we call on the Orange Order in Liverpool to condemn this incident, which happened on their property and involved their members, and state unequivocally its opposition to any further acts directed against the Irish community in Liverpool and beyond.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “I deplore any acts that undermine community cohesion.”
Clubmoor Labour Councillor Jim Noakes, who works with irish communities in Liverpool, commented: The burning of any nation's flag, let alone one with which this city has such a strong affinity, is immensely disrespectful and totally alien to the welcoming, outward-looking, and peaceful views the vast majority of people hold.”
Liverpool Confidential asked The Liverpool Province Loyal Orange Lodge for a comment on the actions the video shows but so far none has been forthcoming.
Merseyside Police said: “Officers from our specialist Sigma team are examining the footage from the blog and making enquiries to establish what offences have been committed and who uploaded the images.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Liverpool North Sigma Team on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
THE flag-burning incident has greatly surprised local people, as some 50-75% of the city population has some Irish roots, writes Declan McSweeney.
However, Liverpool is the main centre of the Orange Order in England, while groups like Cairde na Eireann, with strong republican views, have a presence, and organised this year's St Patrick's Day parade in Vauxhall.
Liverpool is the only English city ever to have elected an Irish Nationalist MP, Thomas P O'Connor. The Athlone man represented Scotland Road from 1885 to 1929.
On the other hand, the Liverpool Protestant Party long had a presence in local politics, winning its last seat in 1973.
But while the history of sectarian conflict is outlined in the Museum of Liverpool, this is largely ancient history. As an Irish Catholic who spent nearly two years in Liverpool till moving to Manchester recently, I found nothing but a warm welcome from local people, of all creeds and none.
The pioneering work of RC Archbishop Derek Worlock and CofE Bishop David Sheppard in bringing communities together was continued by successors Patrick Kelly and James Jones and inter-church links are shown in joint schools like St Francis of Assisi Academy.
Indeed, last year saw both men joined by Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed and Salvation Army representatives at services in the two cathedrals to mark the Queen's Jubilee.
Last November, the Remembrance Day ceremony involved not only representatives of the main Christian groups, but also of the Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities.
The actions of a few hooligans must not detract from Liverpool's welcoming and tolerant spirit.
The city where over one million Irish came during the Famine of the 1840s continues to welcome the Irish.
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