Police are treating sectarian graffiti targeting actor James Nesbitt as a hate crime after it appeared on a wall in Portrush.
ictures of the painting of crosshairs circulated across social media on Wednesday evening.
Also sprawled on the wall, which is reportedly located near a property that the Bloodlands actor owns, is the slogan ‘1 x king 1 x crown no pope in our town James Nesbitt’.
The vandalism comes following Mr Nesbitt’s appearance and keynote speech at an Ireland’s Future event in Dublin at the end of last month.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said police received a report of the graffiti on the Bushmills Road area on Wednesday.
It is believed to have been written sometime between 5pm on Tuesday and 7.30pm on Wednesday.
Mr Nesbitt spoke of “a new union of Ireland” at the Ireland’s Future rally, which supports Irish unity and featured appearances from nationalist politicians including the leaders of Sinn Fein and the SDLP, and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar.
Prior to the event, the Coleraine-born star, who is from a unionist background, told the Belfast Telegraph: “There needs to be change here, and that’s coming from someone who loves coming from here.
“For too long we have just been a bit stuck and I want to lend my voice to what can change, which I hope is maybe much more of a people-led approach to change rather than political.
“I’m not sure what the future of Ireland looks like, I haven’t seen it yet.
“But I think we need to evolve, and engage in a much more public discussion about it all.”
Reacting to the graffiti, former first minister Dame Arlene Foster said freedom of speech “means the right to give your opinion no matter what others think”.
“I totally condemn this attack on James Nesbitt even though I fundamentally disagree with him,” she tweeted. “People need to learn to disagree without resorting to threats.”
Further condemning the threatening graffiti against Mr Nesbitt, Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald said: “These threats are an attack on the right to freedom of expression.
“They come only weeks after James Nesbitt addressed thousands of people in Dublin from right across the political spectrum to discuss the future of the island of Ireland.
“This is clearly a sinister effort to silence debate and intimidate people from joining the discussion,” continued the East Derry MLA.
“There is no place in society for the threats and hatred directed at James Nesbitt.
“Political leaders should stand shoulder to shoulder in opposition to these threats.
“Those responsible for this hate crime should be held to account.
“Anyone with information on those responsible should bring it forward to the PSNI.”
Independent MLA Claire Sugden said “these eejits need to wise up”.
“I don’t share Jimmy’s opinion, but he’s entitled to it,” she tweeted. “When this story is tomorrow’s chip paper, Jimmy will still be making his millions as one the UK’s most successful actors and promoting the best of Northern Ireland.”
The SDLP’s MLA Cara Hunter said she has been left “absolutely sickened at the disgraceful graffiti”.
“This attempt to shut down conversation around our constitutional future is a sinister development and I am glad to see it has been condemned by those right across the political spectrum,” she added.
Queen’s University Professor of Human Rights and Ireland’s Future campaigner Colin Harvey added: “Thugs and threats must not be permitted to derail legitimate and respectful constitutional conversations here. Solidarity with James Nesbitt.”
The PSNI said enquiries into the graffiti are ongoing and asked anyone with information to contact them in Coleraine on 101, quoting reference number 1677 19/10/22.
Reports can be submitted online using the non-emergency reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport
Crimestoppers can also be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
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