Bonfires to be lit in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland
Towering bonfires will be lit in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland later to usher in the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season.
The build-up to the “Eleventh Night” celebrations has been overshadowed by the death of a bonfire builder in Co Antrim on Saturday night.
John Steele, a window cleaner who was aged in his mid-30s, was killed when he fell from a bonfire in Larne that stood more than 50 feet tall.
A vigil was held at the site of the fire in the Antiville estate on Sunday night.
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The bonfire was dismantled earlier in the day and the remnants were lit during the memorial event for Mr Steele.
A flute band played at the vigil while a minute’s silence was also held. Wreaths were laid close to the scene of the fatality.
More than 250 bonfires have been constructed in loyalist neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland ahead of Monday night’s planned festivities. Most are built by stacking wooden pallets.
The fires are traditionally ignited on the eve of the “Twelfth of July” – a day when members of Protestant loyal orders parade to commemorate the Battle of Boyne in 1690.
The battle, which unfolded at the Boyne river north of Dublin, saw Protestant King William of Orange defeat Catholic King James II to secure a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.
Most of the bonfires pass off every year without incident, but a number continue to be the source of controversy.
Around a dozen fires are considered potentially problematic by police.
One potential flashpoint this year is the site of a fire at Adam Street in the loyalist Tigers Bay area of north Belfast.
Nationalist residents from the nearby New Lodge estate have previously claimed the fire is located too close to the interface between the two communities – something the bonfire builders have denied.
Prior to the accident in Antiville, Larne had been making headlines for another bonfire in the town.
Bonfire builders in the nearby Craigyhill estate are attempting to break a world record for the tallest bonfire – a record which currently stands at 198 feet.
On Sunday, the builders in Craigyhill vowed to continue with their record bid in tribute to Mr Steele’s memory.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) plan on the Twelfth being their busiest and most resource intensive day of their year, with the Eleventh Night being second.
There will be 2,500 police officers on duty on the Twelfth, which is around a third of the strength of the PSNI.
On July 12, there will be 573 loyal order parades. Of these, 33 follow routes that are deemed to be sensitive.