Northern Ireland news

Soldier F banners dominate Bogside August 15 bonfire

The bonfire burns in the Bogside area of Derry. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire 
Seamus McKinney

A republican bonfire in Derry’s Bogside festooned with 'hate messages' was set alight last night.

However, Bogside youths abided by a new breakthrough agreement not to burn tyres on the bonfire which attracted criticism in previous years.

Hundreds of onlookers watched as the bonfire, which is torched every August, went up in flames.

A number of fire appliances attended the fire and doused a nearby building with water to ensure it did not catch light as the bonfire burned.

The controversial republican bonefire is built and prepared for burning in the Bogside area of Derry on Thursday night. PIcture Margaret McLaughlin

Last year there was widespread condemnation when the names of murdered police officers, Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr and murdered prison officers, David Black and Adrian Ismay were included on the bonfire.

Following intensive work by community and political leaders, agreement was reached this year not to burn tyres or “hate messages”.

The huge structure at Meenan Square in the Bogside, however, was adorned with numerous loyalist flags. The bonfire builders also included Parachute Regiment flags and a board bearing the message “F*** Soldier F” in reference to the former paratrooper facing two Bloody Sunday murder charges. Banners in support of Soldier F obtained from various parts of the north were also included along with an effigy of the soldier.

Banners with the message 'Free Derry Says No To State Terrorism' and bearing Parachute Regiment flags were also placed on the structure.

The controversial republican bonefire is built and prepared for burning in the Bogside area of Derry on Thursday night. PIcture Margaret McLaughlin

Thousands of people turned out for last night’s event, with most also supporting the ongoing Gasyard Féile. This year’s festival was moved away from the Gasyard into the greater Bogside area to mark the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bogside.

Live music was provided from a stage at Free Derry Corner throughout the evening while children and young people from the area marched around the Bogside with lanterns in a procession of light. The evening culminated in a ‘festival of fire” and pyrotechnics display at Faughan Street.

Chairman of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s bonfire working group, Brian Tierney said he was pleased with the progress made in advance of this year’s Feast of the Assumption bonfire.

SDLP councillor, Mr Tierney said: “We’ve had a number of issues with bonfires across Derry and Strabane but progress has been made. We’re pleased that no tyres were burned and that there has been a lot of engagement with all parties. This is also positive for the future.”

Mr Tierney said he was also pleased that many of the offensive items, including names of murder victims and poppy wreaths, were not included on the Bogside bonfire.

“As someone who was born and reared in the Bog, I’m also pleased with the Féile’s decision to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bogside with tonight’s events and Freedom Fleadh. This is a credit to everyone involved,” Mr Tierney said.

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