Bonfire tensions stoked by ‘protocol and one-sided peace process’ claim

Loyalist disillusionment with the “one-sided” Northern Ireland peace process is partly responsible for increased tensions around a north Belfast bonfire, a group in Tigers Bay has claimed.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 6:30 am
The Tigers Bay bonfire at Adam Street pictured on July 5.
Photo: Pacemaker
The Tigers Bay bonfire at Adam Street pictured on July 5. Photo: Pacemaker

Following a Sinn Fein call for the relatively small bonfire at Adam Street – close to the interface with the nationalist New Lodge area – to be relocated, the Loyalist Tigers Bay group posted a statement on Facebook saying they will “lawfully defend” their rights.

At the weekend Sinn Fein councillor J J Magee the “bonfire should be moved” and that the “police should do their job on crime and anti-social behaviour”.

He said: “The behaviours associated with this bonfire is not culture, has nothing to do with culture and the crime and anti-social behaviour emanating from this must be tackled.”

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However, the loyalist grouping has accused nationalists of placing Tigers Bay “under siege from the pan-nationalist front” – with the community coming under both physical attack and attacks on loyalist culture.

In a statement, they said: “We thank our friends from across the country who have never wavered in their support for our small Protestant enclave.

“Our opponents would do well to a learn a lesson from our proud history, where the IRA failed, you will never succeed.”

The statement goes on to say: “This is no longer about a bonfire; it goes to the core of the one-sided peace process over the past 23 years. Unionism must give, and nationalism must get.

“We have nothing left to give and we as a community will peacefully and lawfully defend the right of the bonfire builders to celebrate our culture.”

In recent weeks, the DUP in north Belfast said the Tigers Bay community has “sustained a barrage of abuse”.

In a statement, the party’s representatives said: “It is clear this sustained aggression and provocation is designed to undermine attempts to have a peaceful and well-managed Eleventh Night bonfire on its traditional site at Adam Street.”

The statement also called on those “with influence” on the New Lodge side of the peaceline to intervene.

Meanwhile, the builders of a bonfire at Bloomfield Walkway in east Belfast have vowed to rebuild the pyre after civilian contractors supported by police lifted the material in the early hours of Sunday morning.

In a Facebook post, the Walkway group appealed to other bonfire builders to donate material for the rebuild.

One of those who responded to the message said: “Tension is already high with the protocol and Irish Sea border but the police still move in to lift a bonfire.”

In Portadown, the builders of the Corcrain/Redmanville bonfire have said it will be ignited immediately if police and contractors attempt to force its removal.