Northern Ireland news

Derry bonfire builders urged not to include tyres and offensive material

Tyres and other material is being stockpiled in Derry's Bogside for an August 15 bonfire. PICTURE: Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

Young nationalists in Derry’s Bogside have been urged not to include tyres, flags or offensive material in an August 15 bonfire.

The appeal was made by SDLP councillor Brian Tierney after a large number of tyres were gathered at the city’s Lecky Road in recent days.

Mr Tierney’s appeal also follows the removal of huge quantities of tyres from a controversial loyalist bonfire in the grounds of Belfast Council-owned Avoniel leisure centre last month.

There was a furious reaction last year when the names of murdered police officers, Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr and prison officers, David Black and Adrian Ismay were pinned to the Derry bonfire which marks the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.

Fire officers also had to target adjoining buildings with water jets because of the proximity of the structure to a derelict building at Meenan Square. Derry City and Strabane District Council has since established a cross-party working group to deal with the issue.

Despite the fact that August 15 is still two weeks away, a large number of tyres have already been stockpiled in the Bogside. The tyres were stored on the anticipated site of the bonfire at Meenan Square and under the Rossville Street fly-over.

Mr Tierney, who is chairman of the bonfire working group, said: “There is still a lot of time before the bonfire is lit and as chairman of the working group, I will be doing all that I can in that time. I will be contacting the people involved in the coming days.

“Everyone has a role to play in ensuring issues are dealt with and I would appeal to the media as well not to be focusing on the Bogside bonfire alone. That often increases tensions at a time when we are trying to break down tensions,” Mr Tierney said.

However, the Derry councillor who is originally from the Bogside, said it was also important that bonfire builders listen to the voice of the local community.

“I would ask them to think of the effect of the toxic gases given off from burning tyres on the environment they live in. We also don’t want a repeat of what happened last year when the names of dead police and prison officers were put on the bonfire,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Derry City and Strabane district council said the authority was working with all relevant agencies and the community to find a solution to issues at Meenan Square.

“The site is currently in private ownership and responsibility for the removal of any materials lies with the owner but the situation is currently being monitored and people are asked to be mindful of the serious health risks of burning hazardous materials such as tyres on bonfires,” she said.

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