LiveNI bonfires row - Blazing Portadown bonfire collapses onto road and Limavady bonfire lit on Saturday morning

A large blazing bonfire in Portadown collapsed onto a road after it was lit last night.

Saturday, 10th July 2021, 11:36 am

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People celebrate the burning of the Eleventh night bonfire in Portadown.
People celebrate the burning of the Eleventh night bonfire in Portadown.

LIVE UPDATES: NI bonfires row - Loyalist bonfires to be lit over next three nights ahead of the Twelfth on Monday

Last updated: Saturday, 10 July, 2021, 11:13

Blazing Portadown bonfire collapses onto road and Limavady bonfire lit on Saturday morning

Loyalist bonfires to be lit over next three nights ahead of the Twelfth on Monday

Loyalist bonfires are due to be lit over three nights in Northern Ireland this weekend ahead of the July 12 parades.

This is because the traditional night for the pyres to be lit, July 11, falls on a Sunday when some would prefer not to do so.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I think we’re always concerned at this time of year, but I hope that common sense prevails. I hope we don’t have disruption.

“People are more than entitled to celebrate their culture and I wish them well with all of that, but culture isn’t bonfires and culture isn’t other communities feeling under attack.

“I hope that there is a peaceful weekend ahead.”

Sinn Fein MLA Dr. Caoimhe Archibald says Limavady bonfire is ‘expression of hate'

Removal of Adam Street pyre could result in public disorder say bonfire builders

The group behind the building of an Eleventh Night bonfire in the Adam Street area of north Belfast has said it is "absurd" to expect a peaceful outcome should the authorities attempt to forcibly remove the pyre.

Tigers Bay Bonfire Group (TBBG) met with Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon on Thursday evening and told her that the idea there could be both peace and “an assault on unionist culture” was “absurd”.

“The group requested that advice be taken from the Attorney General,” wrote TBBG on social media.

“It was also made clear to the Minister that NI is currently a tinderbox and no one wishes to ignite disorder by taking actions which are unnecessary and disproportionate.

“The bonfire in Tigers Bay has community support both from the grassroots, and from political Unionism including Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Jim Allister QC and UUP leader Doug Beattie.

“The notion that three nationalist ministers (SF/SDLP/Alliance) leading an assault on Unionist culture, with no community support, would be conducive to peace and stability is simply absurd.

“We ask people to remain calm and we will be following up with the Minister with a robust written submission.

“Huge well done to the Tigers Bay community in taking a stand in defence of our culture and tradition.”

TUV leader and North Antrim MLA, Jim Allister, is due to visit the Adam Street site to show his support at 1pm on Friday and UUP leader and Upper Bann MLA, Doug Beattie is due to visit the site at 2pm.

Stormont ministers threaten PSNI with court action over bonfire stance

Two Stormont ministers have threatened police in Northern Ireland with legal action for failing to assist in the removal of a contentious loyalist bonfire - writes David Young, PA.

Sinn Fein Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon have issue pre-action correspondence to a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) commander signalling their intention to take a judicial review against his decision not to intervene on the bonfire in the loyalist area of Tiger’s Bay in north Belfast.

DUP ministers have challenging the authority of the ministers to take actions against the PSNI without the approval of the wider executive.

The bonfire, which is set to be lit at the weekend as part of traditional “Eleventh Night” events, is the source of escalating tensions amid claims from residents in the nearby nationalist New Lodge that it has been built too close to the sensitive community interface.

Nationalist residents claim they are living in fear and have been attacked by missiles thrown by loyalist bonfire builders.

Loyalists have rejected suggestions the siting of the bonfire was deliberately provocative and have accused nationalists and republicans of whipping up tensions in an effort to deny them what they view as a legitimate celebration of their culture.

Hundreds of “Eleventh Night” bonfires will be lit in loyalist communities across Northern Ireland over the weekend, most of them late on Sunday night, to usher in the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season – the Twelfth of July.

While the majority pass off each year without incident, some remain the source of community tension, with authorities previously having intervened to remove towering pyres on health and safety grounds.

The road on Adam Street where the Tiger’s Bay bonfire has been built is owned by the Department of Infrastructure while an adjacent piece of land where building materials have been collected is owned by the Department of Communities.

The two departments have sought and secured the assistance of Belfast City Council (BCC) to remove the pyre.

However, in order for BCC contractors to carry out the operation they need protection from the PSNI.

The police are refusing to do so, having made the assessment that an intervention would risk disorder, placing people congregating at the bonfire, including several children, at risk.

The ministers’ legal letter to the PSNI notes that the police have taken an “operational decision” not to support the contractors.

The letter, issued through Stormont’s Departmental Solicitor’s Office, says Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd has informed the departments that police intervention will “likely lead to wider disorder”.

The correspondence to Mr Todd sets out the departments’ “proposed basis to instigate judicial review proceedings” unless he agrees to intervene.

In the letter, seen by the PA news agency, the ministers argue that the PSNI’s refusal to act runs contrary to its statutory responsibilities under the Police (NI) Act 2000, namely to protect life and property, preserve order, prevent the commission of offences and bring offenders to justice.

“The PSNI is expected to facilitate the BCC contractors in securing access to the bonfire site and in removing individuals in and around the bonfire so that it may be dismantled by the contractors,” the letter states.

The Tigers Bay Bonfire Group, which is listed as an interested party in the legal correspondence, has issued a response to the judicial review threat.

In that response, Jamie Bryson, representing the group, has questioned the authority of the ministers to act on the matter, highlighting that under Stormont’s ministerial code issues deemed “significant and controversial” should be dealt with by the powersharing executive as a whole.

Pursuant to that point, Mr Bryson has also sent the response to Stormont’s Executive Office, identifying it as a further interested party.

“The challenge is a clear and obvious attempt by two nationalist ministers to usurp the operational independence of the PSNI,” Mr Bryson states in his letter.

The PSNI has declined to comment on the issue, citing ongoing judicial proceedings.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson insisted the issue was a matter for the entire executive.

Sir Jeffrey said DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots had written to ministers Hargey and Mallon to raise concerns.

“Such controversial, significant or cross-cutting matters should be considered by the Northern Ireland Executive rather than individual ministers,” said Sir Jeffrey.

“It is deeply unfortunate when we are in the middle of an economic and health crisis that the focus of Sinn Fein and SDLP ministers is on a bonfire in north Belfast.”

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