A scarf was shaped like a noose and placed on top of a loyalist bonfire in the latest death threat against a nationalist politician, it was revealed.
The sinister warning aimed at SDLP Stormont Assembly member John Dallat was left on a burning pile of wood during a ceremony in Garvagh, Co Londonderry, marking the start of the Twelfth of July holidays. A note alongside the scarf said life would not be normal until he was disposed of.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) dealt with one call every 77 seconds overnight as loyalists lit fires marking the start of their holiday season.
Mr Dallat said: “When I visited Garvagh just before midnight, it was very clear that the number of people turning out to support this event was a mere handful compared to years ago.
“Clearly the people of Garvagh have had enough of the wanton sectarianism that has being going on in the name of loyalism and they don’t find it appealing or entertaining.”
He added: “While the death threat won’t inhibit me in any way, I do take note that those involved are dangerous people who can’t be ignored and should not be ignored because they have the capacity to attract the interest of loyalist paramilitaries who over the years claimed the lives of many people in East Derry.”
Mr Dallat said police did everything possible within the time available and with the resources at their disposal but could not persuade the organisers to remove the offending material.
Loyalists across Northern Ireland marked the “Eleventh Night” with bonfires of waste wood and furniture, where effigies of the Pope are sometimes burnt.
From 6pm until 1am the fire service received 184 calls. Over a three-hour period it dealt with calls every 77 seconds. Forty-two incidents were related to the Eleventh Night. Only 15 required fire service assistance.
In Craigavon, Co Armagh, crews attending a bonfire had to withdraw after they came under attack from youths throwing stones but there were no injuries.
In some cases the fierce heat produced by fires put nearby properties at risk, forcing the fire service to cool them using jets of water.
A blaze at Cluan Place, east Belfast, near where serious sectarian rioting has broken out in the past, caused some minor external damage at a nearby property.
In Co Down, a number of houses at Huntly Road, Banbridge, and Ballyminetragh Gardens, Bangor, required external cooling due to heat from nearby bonfires.
Crews also attended 25 minor gorse and grass fires.
The NIFRS said the total of 184 fire calls was up by almost 100% on last year.
The UK environment department said very high pollution is forecast in Belfast centre today due to the effects of bonfires.