Anti refugee graffiti was daubed on the wall of the Salvation Army Church in Coleraine at the weekend.
The slogan saying‘no refugees welcome’ is a reaction to news that the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area could be accepting around fifty refugee families in the coming months.
Politicians have condemend the actions of those responsible, however one Independent member of Council says that he is ‘not surprised’ by the slogan, and claimed that the refugees would be “better off in Syria than in far right Coleraine”.
Independent councillor Padraig McShane, who spent three weeks in Syria in 2010 said: “I condemn this action outright, but I am not surprised.
“Coleraine is famous for having a far-Right connection.”
He added: “I would advise the refugees that they would be better off in Syria rather than coming to Coleraine.”
The councillor also claimed that the graffiti, which has now been removed, was ‘sponsored’ by the UDA.
SDLP MLA John Dallat said that the slogan was a ‘misrepresentation’ of the wonderful people of the area.
“It misrepresents the wonderful people who are planning to make a modest contribution to those who have lost their families and loved ones, and indeed everything in Libya and Iraq, “ he said.
Meanwhile, former Mayor of Coleraine, DUP councillor George Duddy said that while the slogan was “unfortunate”, local people were increasingly angry about a campaign to bring refugees to the town.
Mr Duddy added: “It is unfortunate that this message appeared on the wall of a church, but there is growing concern about bringing refugees to the town. A number of local people have been on waiting lists for houses for a long time, and they are concerned that if refugees are brought here they will get preferential treatment. We also have waiting lists building in our hospitals, and again anger is starting to build that refugees could receive priority again.
The presence of the graffiti has not deterred a group headed by SDLP councillor Stephanie Quigley, hoping to bring at least fifty refugee families to the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area.
Cllr Quigley says she has been ‘overwhelmed’ by support from the people of the Coleraine area, but added that she had also received messages from people concerned about her efforts.
On Friday night, the SDLP woman hosted a meeting in a bid to put a framework in place to enable the area to accept some of the refugee families.
“ The messages of intolerance and hate that have appeared on social media, graffitied on walls and sent to my own phone over the weekend were disgusting. This small minority have demonstrated their own cowardice, ignorance and inhumanity during this humanitarian disaster.“Their attempted intimidation will not derail the efforts of those who have offered shelter to refugees .”