Northern Ireland news

Bonfire torched days before the Twelfth in 'provocative' attack, DUP says

 A loyalist bonfire in the Leckagh estate in Magherafelt has been prematurely set alight. Picture from the British Truth Forum/Facebook

A LOYALIST bonfire has been set alight in Co Derry days before the Twelfth demonstrations.

The pyre in Leckagh, Magherafelt, was due to be lit on the Eleventh Night.

However, it was torched late on Tuesday.

Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan and party colleage, councillor Paul McLean, claimed those who targeted the bonfire wanted to raise tensions ahead of the Twelfth.

They claimed that a decision by Mid-Ulster District Council in April to introduce a bonfire licensing scheme in the district has heightened community tensions.

It is believed to be the first time a council in the north has moved to regulate bonfires through such a scheme.

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"Bonfires are an important part of celebrations for many people in the run up to July 12," the DUP representatives said.

"The decision to introduce licencing on bonfires has raised tensions across the Mid Ulster area and this latest incident would appear to be a further attempt to create further problems.

"Those responsible must be condemned and we would appeal for there to be no reaction to such provocation. Bonfires should be a positive celebration of culture and whilst it will take a great deal of work this can still happen in Leckagh. Those who attempted to spoil the event will not be successful.”

The British Truth Forum, a hardline unionist group who had urged bonfire builders to boycott the licensing scheme, said the bonfire was set alight in "an attack on our British culture and heritage".

The group put up an "unauthorised" flagpole on a roundabout in Magherafelt in February last year.

The pole and Union flag were later removed by council workers on health and safety grounds.

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