Hate crime probe into Lisburn bonfire attack

The fire was still burning by lunchtime on Friday having been reported in the early hours of the morning
The fire was still burning by lunchtime on Friday having been reported in the early hours of the morning

Police are investigating a possible hate crime motive for the arson attack which destroyed a Lisburn bonfire several weeks early.

It is the second such attack on 11th night bonfires this week; one man was arrested by police after a bonfire was set alight at Sandy Row in Belfast on Thursday morning.

DUP MP for Lagan Valley Jeffrey Donaldson said he believed the motive for the Lisburn incident may have been sectarian.

The bonfire was set alight in the Drumbeg Drive area on Friday morning.

The PSNI said they attended the scene after receiving a report that the bonfire had been set on fire at the Old Warren just before 3am on Friday.

They said: “We are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding a fire being lit in the Old Warren area of Lisburn.

“A hate-related motivation is one of the lines of inquiry.”

Jeffrey Donaldson felt there was no direct link between the attack on the Lisburn site and the one in Belfast’s Sandy Row.

“I am not convinced there is a link with the fire at Sandy Row and suspect it may be a copycat incident,” he told the News Letter.

“We don’t yet know the motive but it is difficult to escape the conclusion that it [the Lisburn attack] is sectarian.

“Somebody, somewhere is trying to create tensions when there has been so much good work done on community relations in the area.

“I hope the person who did this understands the damage they have done and that the police can catch them as soon as possible.”

A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesman said they were called out to the Lisburn blaze at 4.44am on Friday.

“One fire appliance from Lisburn Fire Station was deployed to the scene of a bonfire alight in the area,” he said.

“One hose reel jet was used to deal with the incident. No property was damaged during the incident.

“The incident finished at 5.47am and is being treated as a deliberate fire.”

On Thursday, Sandy Row community worker Glenda Davies described the premature torching of the Sandy Row bonfire as an “attack on the Protestant culture”.

A man in his 30s was later arrested after disturbances in the area, in the Wellwood Street area, near Days Hotel.

DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt condemned the incident and said it was “an attack on the people of Sandy Row”.

He said that he also believes “the bonfire will be back bigger and better for the 11th night”.