Northern Ireland news

Cross-party condemnation of Bogside bonfire

 The names of two murdered prison officers and two murdered police officers on the Bogside bonfire which was lit last night. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

The head of the Prison Service has condemned the "disgraceful" decision to light a bonfire in Derry emblazoned with the names of murdered officers.

The names of murdered police officers and a poppy wreath were also placed on the pyre in the Bogside which was set alight last night.

The bonfire was erected at Meenan Square and hundreds watched it burn.

Prison Service director-general Ronnie Armour, in a message to staff, said: "Using the names of our murdered friends and colleagues, and those of PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) colleagues, in this way has caused great hurt and distress to their families, to the Prison Service, and the wider community."

Police are treating it as a hate crime.

PSNI Chief Inspector Paul McCracken said: "We are treating this as a hate crime and we are seeking to identify those responsible, and I would ask anyone with information that can help identify the perpetrators to contact us."

Kate Carroll, widow of Constable Stephen Carroll, who was murdered by dissident republicans in 2009, expressed disappointment that his name was included on the bonfire.

"I try to not let it affect me anymore because it is a lost emotion, there are always going to be people in this country who still believe in the cause and the divide-and-conquer mindset," she told BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show on Thursday.

"I try not to get stuck in a futile past.

"But I think most people in this country would prefer to live and let live, and move on from the past."

DUP Councillor Graham Warke said he was "disgusted" by the display on the nationalist bonfire.

The bonfire was also decorated with a number of flags including several union flags, a Northern Ireland Football Club Flag and a Trump, Make America Great Again flag.

A poppy wreath, laid at the cenotaph in the Diamond on July 1 to commemorate soldiers who died in two World Wars, was also stolen and placed on the fire.

 Crowds watch a republican bonfire burn in the Bogside in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Murdered prison officer David Black was one of those whose name was written on a banner placed on the bonfire.

His son Kyle said he felt "absolutely sickened" by it.

 

Sinn Féin councillor Patricia Logue said "nothing" justified the burning of the bonfire.

"Those responsible for putting poppy wreaths, flags and other hate messages on the bonfire are intent only on causing extreme offence and damaging community relations," she said in a statement.

"This is nothing but a display of hate and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with republicanism.

"The people of the Bogside do not want this bonfire and they certainly do not want displays of hate designed to cause distress and antagonism to their neighbours in this city."

Alderman Warke said the poppy wreath, which was stolen on July 3, should have been removed and returned.

"I am absolutely disgusted to see a poppy wreath on the bonfire", he said.

"It was laid out of respect to everyone in this city and now to see it on a bonfire as absolutely disgusting."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the bonfire did not represent the people of Derry.

He said: "Totally appalled to see flags, poppy wreaths and the names of murdered policemen on a bonfire in Derry.

"Reps from all parties and youth workers tried to stop it.  This nonsense doesn't represent the views of the people of Derry. It's sectarian and anti social. Nothing more."

Bonfires were traditionally set alight on August 15, in some nationalist areas to mark the Feast of the Assumption.

However, the practice died out with bonfires instead on the August 9, to mark the anniversary of interment without trial.

This year there were no bonfires in any nationalist areas of Belfast with organisers of Féile an Phobail saying this was as a result of engagement with young people and diversionary activities.

The Bogside bonfire has been linked to a local dissident group.

 Firefighters at the Bogside bonfire in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

 Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

 Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

 Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

 The bonfire in the Bogside. Pictures by Margaret McLaughlin

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