Controversy rages as effigies of Sinn Fein leaders burn on bonfires

NewsBy Sunday World
The '11th Night' bonfires blaze in Northern Ireland
The '11th Night' bonfires blaze in Northern Ireland

Fire crews dealt with a reduced number of ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire incidents in Northern Ireland this year, a spokesman has said.

A total of 29 calls were received between 6pm last night and 1am - 12 of which required active intervention - a reduction on the 44 last year, and 54 during 2013.

The fires are an annual tradition ahead on the eve of the ‘Twelfth of July’ - the high-point of the loyal order marching season - and communities often compete to build the biggest structure.

In east Belfast, more than 30 firefighters used water jets to cool properties at Chobham Street.

Although a bonfire has been built on the site just off Newtownards Road for many years, there was some controversy over its size and close proximity to terraced houses this year.

More than 50 homes were boarded up and a number of residents moved out after warnings that their lives and properties were in danger.

Meanwhile, in New Mossley, Co Antrim, one of the largest fires collapsed soon after it was ignited, but there were no reports of any injuries.

Effigies of Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly were also torched on another Co Antrim pyre.

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "It is likely that reduced call numbers were due to the fact that July 11 this year fell on Saturday and a number of bonfires may have been held over to be ignited on the evening of Sunday July 12."

More bonfires are expected to be lit tonight ahead of the Orange Order parades tomorrow.

The Alliance Party has said it will be asking the PSNI to investigate after election posters and flags were burnt.

East Belfast councillor Michael Long, whose wife, Naomi Long, is the area's former MP, said: "Alliance has no issue with anyone celebrating their culture in a respectful and tolerant manner.

"However, placing Alliance posters on bonfires, as happened in East Belfast and East Antrim among other locations, as well as those from other parties and national flags, is neither respectful nor tolerant.

"Chobham Street saw six fire appliances and 35 firefighters attend to prevent any serious damage being done to the houses beside it. Those are valuable resources that could have been used elsewhere.

"The placing of the election posters of Naomi Long and others on it added an extra menacing edge to events."