SECTARIAN tensions have erupted in Merseyside as video footage showing a mob torching an Irish flag outside an Orange Lodge emerged online last week.
Complaints have been made to Merseyside Police by furious Irish community members who were shocked by the public outburst of anti-Irish racism in Liverpool.
Police have confirmed that they will investigate the footage, while Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy brandished the act ‘deplorable’.
The five minute film, posted on the liverpoolirishblog site, shows a group of men, including a number of younger faces, chanting sectarian songs while setting light to the Irish flag.
The incident takes place on the grounds of the Provincial Orange Hall on Everton Road, on June 8, and followed a march by the Apprentice Boys of Derry through the city earlier that day.
Yet the Liverpool Province Orange Order claims that it is neither racist nor sectarian, maintaining they are ‘not anti-anything’, on their website, adding “racism and bigotry would not be a Christ-like characteristic”.
Instead, they claim their ‘Orangemen’ are Protestant Christians, who are ‘good neighbours, citizens and gentlemen’, and state “we encourage tolerance and goodwill towards members of different beliefs”.
But their neighbours within Liverpool’s Irish community reacted angrily to the footage of the men burning Ireland’s national flag – a symbol synonymous with Ireland’s sectarian troubles – and have called for the Orange Order to condemn the incident.
Liverpool Irishman Mike Lloyd told The Irish Post: “As a second generation Irishman and proud of being from Liverpool, I was deeply offended at the video of a sectarian mob burning an Irish Tricolour outside the Provincial Orange Hall in Liverpool.”
He added: “The Orange Order tries to deny any sectarian agenda or that they are opposed to a large section of Liverpool’s Irish community. The truth is I don’t believe they have moved on from the sectarian conflict that plagued the city in the past.
“I think this shocking video needs to be widely condemned by our leaders and the Orange Order, if they are serious about not being sectarian in nature.”
Liverpool’s Cairde na hÉireann group believes the incident should be treated as a hate crime and has called on Merseyside Police to investigate.
Organiser Neil Doolin said: “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.”
Merseyside Police will now investigate the video footage.
Last week a spokesperson confirmed: “We are aware of activities that appear to be taking place on the blog. As a result, 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.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy, whose office has also received complaints regarding the flag burning footage, said: “I deplore any acts that undermine community cohesion.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Liverpool North Sigma Team on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The Liverpool Province Loyal Orange Lodge failed to respond when the Irish Post contacted them for comment on the flag burning incident.