Northern Ireland news

Organisers of The Open in Portrush warn of possible bonfire 'disorder'

Preparations under way in Portrush for The Open, and right, a loyalist bonfire earlier this week at Avoniel Leisure Centre in east Belfast
Brendan Hughes

THE Open golf championship in Portrush warned workers of possible bonfire "disorder" and a "risk of disruption" from Orange parades.

Organisers also advised personnel to "avoid displaying football colours" and "be sensitive to any conversations in public regarding Northern Ireland politics or the Troubles".

Loyalist bonfires "have previously led to a degree of disorder" and parades could bring a "risk of disruption.. particularly where there are counter-demonstrations", they said.

The guidance was issued some weeks ahead of The 148th Open Championship, which is taking place at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Co Antrim from July 14-21.

With many visitors expected to arrive before the event tees off, the Orange Order has been encouraging golf fans to "enjoy the Orange.. and the greens" by attending its annual parades.

But in a memo entitled 'Message to all Contractors and Service Providers to The Open 2019', organisers issued advice to workers about 'Orangefest'.

It described the Twelfth as the "most significant date in the Protestant, unionist and loyalist parading calendar" with thousands involved in marches.

"Numerous parades, both large and small, will be held in the lead up to the 12th and throughout the marching season," it said.

A loyalist bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre earlier this week. Picture by PA

"There will be a significant increase in the number of flags and bunting put up in areas across NI. This will usually occur in June, July and August.

"During this period, it is recommended to avoid displaying football colours. It is also recommended to be sensitive to any conversations in public regarding Northern Ireland politics or the Troubles."

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The memo also had guidance in relation to Eleventh Night bonfires.

"On the night of July 11 bonfires will be lit at a number of locations throughout NI and these have previously led to a degree of disorder," it read.

"In these areas, there will be increased police resources and your travel movement may be affected.

"In addition to the increase in traffic on the roads, there is a risk of disruption in towns and cities where parades are taking place, particularly where there are counter-demonstrations."

The single-page memo was circulated some weeks ago, and also contains details about the North West 200 held in May.

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It describes the motorcycling race and Orangefest as the "two notable annual events affecting our construction works at Royal Portrush".

The guidance emerged amid tensions over some bonfires in east Belfast and safety concerns over a pyre in Portadown.

Asked about the memo yesterday, a spokesman for The Open's organisers The R&A said: "We give guidance to our contractors each year to assist them in going about their duties and to make them aware of any other events taking place in the area."

Last week, the Orange Order hit back after a prominent golf writer branded plans for an event in Portrush during the Open as "horrendously embarrassing".

The 'Celebration of Marching Bands' on July 20 is organised by Portrush Sons of Ulster, replacing an annual parade.

Ewan Murray, golf correspondent for the Guardian and Observer newspapers, had said: "There is naturally a comedic, ludicrous undertone to this in 2019 but when placed on the Open's doorstep it is a horrendously embarrassing look."

Iain Carlisle, chief executive of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, said the event is not organised by the Orange Order but praised those involved, and accused the Guardian opinion piece of "sensationalist language".

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