A controversial Co Armagh pastor who referred to “rats” who need to be dealt with by “the rifle and grenade” will be interviewed by police this week.
A video showing Markethill pastor Barrie Halliday making the remarks was shared online.
In the video he said: “The rats were in the foundation and there’s only one way to deal with rats. It’s not to feed them, it’s not to give them a house, it’s not to give them a feel-good factor of power. The only way… is to go in with the rifle and the grenade and get rid of them, every last one including the young upstarts.”
The SDLP’s Justin McNulty expressed his disgust and anger at the online video and said that the legal implications of Pastor Halliday’s actions should be considered, given that his comments could reasonably be viewed as “an incitement to violence”.
“This isn’t the first time that Barrie Halliday has disgraced himself with unhinged online videos,” said Mr McNulty. “Two years ago, just hours after the death of Séamus Mallon, Halliday took to social media to sully the name of a man whose boots he was not fit to lace.
“Now he has used his platform to preach hate and dehumanising vitriol.
Mr Halliday told the Belfast Telegraph that the video “was only intended for a private group and was accidentally made public”.
He went on to clarify that the context was in reference to “the republican terrorist threat to our country 30 to 40 years ago”.
Mr McNulty added: “Now that he’s been caught out, Pastor Halliday claims that the video was ‘accidentally’ made public. Accident or not, this hate has no place in our society, and it needs to be pulled out by the roots.
“I have been contacted by local parents who are deeply uneasy at Pastor Halliday’s rhetoric and the action it may provoke in others. We have often seen before, most recently just last month in America, how motivated hate can spill over into violence and tragedy. Local parents have urged me to contact the police and articulate those concerns.
“I have been in contact with police and will be writing to the Justice Minister on this issue as well. We’ve come too far to allow troubled individuals like Barrie Halliday to plunge us back into distrust, danger, and violence.”
In response, a statement released by the Protestant Coalition, read: “Due to a recent video that Pastor Barrie Halliday produced there have been false and misleading allegations made by sections of the media, mainly newspapers.
“It has been reported that Barrie Halliday has called Catholics rats, and they should be dealt with by ‘the rifle and grenade’. These claims are false and misleading and should be withdrawn immediately. In the recent video, Barrie Halliday did not mention the word Catholic and therefore was not referring to the Roman Catholic community. Barrie Halliday was referring to the terrorist organisation the Provisional IRA as rats.
“A large section of unionism/loyalism will agree with the fight that was taken against the IRA during our recent conflict, when our country, our people was under constant attack by Provisional IRA, with the only solution then being was when loyalists had no choice but to defend their country and their community or to target the IRA.
That is a view which is held by many within loyalism.
“When Barrie stated about the rifle and grenade dealing with the rats (the IRA), he was referring to the situation and our conflict 30/40 years ago, as is obvious when the video is listened to fully.
“As certain individuals have taken the video out of context and falsely claimed that Barry was referring to the present time. We therefore repeat our calls for the certain sections of the media who have reported these false claims about Barrie to withdraw them immediately.”