Northern Ireland

Bonfires: PUP slams anti-John Kyle 'vote for the IRA' graffiti

Graffiti on a wall near London Road off the Ravenhill Road in Belfast
Graffiti on a wall near London Road off the Ravenhill Road in Belfast

THE PUP has hit out at graffiti which claimed a vote for Belfast councillor John Kyle is a "vote for the IRA".

The slogan was daubed on a wall close to a major bonfire site after Mr Kyle supported the removal of tyres from Twelfth pyres.

The DUP, Ulster Unionists and Orange Order have also spoken out against the use of tyres, with DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little-Pengelly urging those who hide tyres in bonfires to "wise up".

Mr Kyle, a veteran councillor and retired GP, had said the burning of tyres on bonfires damages "not only the environment but also the health of residents, especially those nearby".

"We need to find better ways to celebrate culture."

He was speaking before masked security contractors moved in to remove 1,800 tyres from a bonfire on London Road off the Ravenhill Road in Belfast early on Sunday.

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Graffiti was later painted on a wall close to the site which read: "A vote for John Kyle is a vote for the IRA."

Mr Kyle said he will continue to speak out on the issue.

"People say things that are foolish," he told Radio Ulster.

"I don't believe that a vote for John Kyle is a vote for the IRA, I believe it's the exact opposite."

He said "tensions were high" but unionists need to be able to take any criticism on board.

"We need not to overreact when things don't go our way."

PUP chairman Brian Lacey questioned how supporting the removal of tyres "dilutes your unionism and indeed Britishness".

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"Does spreading toxic and environmentally damaging smoke and fumes around your local area make you more of a Prod?"

He said Eleventh Night bonfires are a "time-honoured expression of our Protestant culture" but should not "be the cause of any potential damage to life or property".

"We don't see the removal of harmful products or the placing of bonfires in a safe place, away from local properties, as supporting a republican agenda.

"We view it as taking a sensible approach and placing the concerns and welfare of our community at the top of our list of responsibilities."

Several unionist politicians have said they support the removal of tyres from bonfires.

DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly tweeted that bonfire builders who hide tyres in their pyres should "wise up".

"The burning of tyres causes serious toxic chemicals to be released - upwards of 1000 tyres hidden within the bonfire. It is proven that this can cause serious respiratory issues and cancer," she said.

"Why would people hide this toxic and serious risk to health of our own community #WiseUp."

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers questioned where the tyres are being sourced from.

"You don't just have a trailer with 1,000 tyres on it," he said.

"Somebody is breaking the law by not disposing of tyres properly. We've been trying to establish for years where these are coming from."

He added: "Where are the pallets coming from too?"

Orange Order grand secretary Rev Mervyn Gibson said the use of tyres "doesn't do our own community any good or doesn't do any community good because it hits people with respiratory problems and those with asthma".

"We prefer not to see tyres on bonfires and make sure there is no toxic material on the bonfires," he told Downtown Radio.

"We want people to have a family-friendly atmosphere around the bonfires."