Northern Ireland

Controversial bonfire with replica PSNI car on top set alight in Moygashel

The stunt was branded ‘truly pathetic’ by the UUP’s Doug Beattie

A mock police car is set alight on top of a bonfire in Moygashel, Co Tyrone
A mock police car is set alight on top of a bonfire in Moygashel, Co Tyrone (Niall Carson/PA)

A controversial bonfire in Co Tyrone which had a replica of a police car placed on top has been set alight.

Pyres, ranging from towering structures to beacons, sited at an estimated 300 locations, will mainly be lit on Thursday night, however some have already been lit.

Hundreds of people gathered to see the lighting of the pyre in Moygashel, near Dungannon, on Wednesday night.

An event was held at the Moygashel bonfire, featuring a fireworks display and bands playing music, which then culminated in the pyre being lit.

It has been reported that the structure quickly toppled over into some trees.

Moygashel bonfire looking well 😂 📸: Rhiannon Bettany

Posted by Jordan O'Brien on Wednesday 10 July 2024

A mock-up police car had been placed on top of the bonfire earlier this week and featured the faces of Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly and former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson.

The same bonfire made headlines last year after it had a boat placed on top protesting against the ‘Irish Sea Border’ in a nod to unionist grievances over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

But the presence this year of the replica police car prompted criticism from elected representatives, including UUP leader Doug Beattie who described it as “truly pathetic”.

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, the PSNI also said it is “aware of a vehicle being placed on a bonfire in the Main Road area of Moygashel”.

However, loyalist activist Jamie Bryson and the builders of the controversial bonfire defended the display as an act of “cultural expression” with an “artistic message”.

The bonfires are an annual tradition in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland every year ahead of Orange Order parades on July 12.

One of the tallest bonfires in recent years has been at Craigyhill in Larne, which reportedly reached 62 metres in 2022.