Graffiti targeting northern Irish actor James Nesbitt treated as hate crime

Actor James Nesbitt delivers the keynote address at a rally for Irish unification organised by Pro-unity group Ireland's Future at the 3Arena in Dublin <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Actor James Nesbitt delivers the keynote address at a rally for Irish unification organised by Pro-unity group Ireland's Future at the 3Arena in Dublin (Image: PA)

GRAFFITI targeting actor James Nesbitt after he spoke at an event in support of a united Ireland is being treated by police as a hate crime.

The message threatening the Cold Feet actor was daubed on a wall in the predominantly Unionist town of Portrush in Co Antrim.

It appeared weeks after Nesbitt was the keynote speaker at an event in Dublin organised by Ireland's Future, a campaign group advocating for a united Ireland.

The actor told around 5000 people in the city's 3Arena that any change to Ireland's status must be led by the people, not politicians.

The graffiti threatening the Northern Ireland-born actor referenced the King and Crown and also included a hostile reference to the Pope.

The National: James Nesbitt delivers the keynote address
The National: James Nesbitt delivers the keynote address

James Nesbitt delivers the keynote address (Image: PA)

A spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: “Police in Coleraine received a report of graffiti on a wall in the Bushmills Road area of Portrush on Wednesday 19th October.

“The graffiti is believed to have been written on the wall some time between 5pm on Tuesday and 7.30pm on Wednesday evening and is being treated as a hate crime.”

Officers have asked anyone with information to come forward.

The graffiti has been condemned by local political representatives. East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said Nesbitt should be free to express his views.

“Jimmy Nesbitt is a local lad who has invested in his own community,” said the DUP representative. “Those painting threatening graffiti such as this should stop. Their actions are wrong and to be condemned.

READ MORE: James Nesbitt to join high-profile Dublin rally for Irish unification

“I fundamentally disagree with Mr Nesbitt’s position on Northern Ireland’s future but he has every right to express his political views in whatever forum he wishes. He should be able to do so free from fear.

“That’s a democracy and it’s why I have opposed Sinn Fein all my life as they believed you could justify violence at the same time as doing politics.

“We must be consistent in always opposing violence as well as any threat of violence and attempted intimidation.”

Sinn Fein’s Caoimhe Archibald said the graffiti represented an attack on freedom of expression.

“The appearance of threatening and sectarian graffiti directed at James Nesbitt in Portrush is disgusting,” she 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.

“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.”

READ MORE: James Nesbitt says he does not ‘set out’ to play policemen in dark dramas

Nesbitt has had a long association with Troubles victims’ organisation, the WAVE Trauma Centre.

A spokesperson for the centre said: “As a patron of the WAVE Trauma Centre for over 20 years, Jimmy Nesbitt has been a true friend to victims and survivors right across Northern Ireland.

“That speaks to his commitment to support those who have suffered so much during our violent past but yet are too often ignored.”