Loyalist bonfires block roads and burn election posters

Allison Morris
12 July, 2016 01:00

AS loyalists prepared to light Eleventh Night bonfires, a main route in north Belfast was reduced to one lane after material was gathered on the road.

The bonfire at the turn of the Crumlin Road close to Ligoniel has in previous years forced it to be closed.

Police watched on yesterday as loyalists dragged wood onto the carriageway, blocking a lane of traffic.

In Ballymena, elections posters from 2014 belonging to Sinn Féin councillor Patrice Hardy were reported to have been placed on a bonfire.

UUP councillor Julie Flaherty said she believed they were a last minute addition and good work of community representatives was being "undone by the strike of a match".

Police were investigating.

A poster of former culture minister Carál Ní Chuilín was also placed on a bonfire in the lower Shankill area of Belfast, images of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly were put on material on the lower Newtownards road, and images of Barry McElduff and other party figures in the Annadale area.

Party colleague John O'Dowd said he had reported to police the theft and burning of posters belonging to him and party colleague Catherine Seeley at a bonfire in Portadown as a "hate crime".

Mr McElduff said he had also contacted police.

In east Belfast a controversial bonfire that resulted in 50 homes being evacuated last year has been reduced in size and moved away from a playpark to prevent damage to equipment.

Last week 'Foreigners Out' was painted on a pallet at the site, but was removed by the group East Belfast ACT.

It was also involved in negotiations with young people to reduce the size and move the fire.

However, in other parts of east Belfast bonfires in Cluan Place blocked a side road and in Clara Street a bonfire was built dangerously close to homes.

In south Belfast the Donegall Road entrance to the City Hospital was closed because of a large bonfire just metres from the gate.

Bonfire builders have in the past been criticised for building so close to the hospital, which is home to Northern Ireland's main cancer treatment centre.

In Tigers Bay in north Belfast a bonfire referenced the EU referendum result with a Brexit sign and an EU flag on top. 'IRA scum' was also displayed across the bonfire.

The Fire and Rescue Service made an appeal to bonfire builders not to burn tyres.

However, tyres have appeared at sites across the north, with hundreds on a large pyre in the Ballycraigy estate in Antrim which also featured paramilitary and racist slogans.

PUP councillor John Kyle said: "Just to be quite clear, burning tyres is illegal, hazardous to health and damaging to the environment. It should not be done."

Last week the Irish News reported how the number of loyalist communities signing up to a council-run bonfire scheme aimed at stamping out the burning of tyres had dropped significantly this year.

12 July, 2016 01:00 News

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