Sinn Fein have accused a Loyalist group of trying to ramp up tensions after sectarian graffiti appeared opposite a sports centre in the Waterside.
Derry City & Strabane District Council yesterday moved in to remove the ‘Fenians Out’ message daubed in large letters on a wall along the Limavady Road, opposite the entrance to Foyle Arena.
Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson said he believed the graffiti was designed to intimidate users of the Council-run sports complex and nearby St Columb’s Park.
Colr. Jackson warned that there can be no ‘no go’ areas in Derry, and that the vast majority of people in the Waterside from all traditions did not support such actions.
Colr. Jackson was made aware of the graffiti by people arriving at the Foyle Arena yesterday morning.
He said: “It is disappointing to see this but it is not surprising. Over the last few weeks there has been a concerted effort to raise tensions in the area and this is just another attempt to make people feel unwelcome while they are using the Foyle Arena or St Columb’s Park.
“The message we need to get out is that all council facilities are open to everybody and there is no place for sectarianism anywhere. We have to ensure people feel safe and comfortable using Foyle Arena and St Columb’s Park, and that there are no ‘no go’ areas in the city, despite what some people might want to create.”
Mr Jackson said there were very progressive talks ongoing with local politicians, residents, statutory and voluntary agencies, led by St Columb’s Park House, to try and address recent concerns over antisocial behaviour problems in St Columb’s Park.
Mr Jackson said that as a result of these extremely positive discussions, plans were now in place for an exciting programme of work to make the park more inclusive for people of all traditions, ages and backgrounds.
“There is brilliant work ongoing and people very committed to addressing the problems, and yet there is a small minority carrying out actions such as this, trying to undo that good work.”
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed that sectarian graffiti was removed from a section of wall along the Limavady Road yesterday.
She said: “Council continues to work closely with local community groups and the PSNI to ensure the area in and around St Columb’s Park remains a safe and welcoming shared space for all users.
“Security at the park is constantly under review, and any anti-social or sectarian activities will be reported to the PSNI and dealt with accordingly.”
A PSNI spokesman meanwhile confirmed: “Police received a report of sectarian graffiti on a wall at Limavady Road on Monday 7th August.
“The graffiti was painted sometime overnight between Sunday 6th and Monday 7th August. The incident is being treated as a hate crime.
“Officers would ask anyone with any information to contact them at Strand Road on 101 quoting reference number 371 07/08/17 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”