PSNI logs 40 reports of incidents at Twelfth bonfires

A children's bonfire lit at Lanark Way on Belfast's Shankill Road ahead of the Twelfth of July
Brendan Hughes

POLICE say they have logged 40 reports of incidents relating to bonfires over this year's Twelfth of July period.

The complaints included the burning of election posters, flags and effigies, as well as reports of loud music, anti-social behaviour and assaults.

More than 300 bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland on the Eleventh Night last week.

The PSNI has defended its handling of controversial bonfires amid concerns that police have failed to tackle potential law breakers.

A row of terraced houses in the Shankill area of west Belfast was severely damaged during this year's Twelfth after embers from a nearby bonfire apparently blew onto the roofs.

There was also controversy around the burning of tyres, election posters and tricolours on pyres, with some reported to police as hate crimes.

The height and location of some of the towering structures also caused concern in some areas with at least one bonfire being built close to a new children's play park in east Belfast.

In one incident in Newtownards police appealed for information after a teenager was left with "horrific" injuries following a fight at an Eleventh Night bonfire.

Superintendent Muir Clark said the recording of crimes on PSNI systems does not have a distinct category for bonfires.

"However a check has been carried out for July 11 and it would indicate that there were 40 reports directly relating to bonfires," he said.

"The nature of complaints includes burning of election posters, flags, effigies, loud music, anti-social behaviour and assaults."

Last week Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin defended the PSNI's handling of controversial loyalist bonfires.

Calling for a collective approach to the problem, he said: "The best way to improve the situation is through consultation; through dialogue and through partnership between the police, the other agencies, political and civic leaders and critically communities must be at the heart of this."

Mr Martin, who has responsibility for overseeing operations around bonfires and parading, added: "I am required in law to consider the necessity and proportionality of my actions.

"Police deal with crimes and some of the crimes involved would be extremely difficult to prove."

Earlier this year a bonfire in Antrim was the subject of a landmark prosecution when a 19-year-old man was convicted over a racist display at the pyre.


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