Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson visits north Belfast interface bonfire as Nichola Mallon and Jamie Bryson hold talks

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and his deputy Paula Bradley visit <br />Adam Street bonfire in the Tigers Bay area of north Belfast yesterday evening. Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker&nbsp;
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and his deputy Paula Bradley visit
Adam Street bonfire in the Tigers Bay area of north Belfast yesterday evening. Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker 

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson visited the site of a controversial bonfire at a north Belfast interface last night.

His attendance came as Stormont minister Nichola Mallon held talks with prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson to discuss the contentious pyre.

The virtual meeting follows over the controversial pyre at Adam Street, close to the New Lodge and Tigers Bay interface.

The bonfire is built on land under the responsibility of Ms Mallon’s Department for Infrastructure.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Bryson, who is a prominent figure in recent anti-protocol protest movement, has been asked to represent bonfire builders at the site.

Earlier she held a virtual meeting with nationalist residents.

Sinn Féin MLA for the area Carál Ní Chuilín has called for the bonfire to be moved.

Loyalists had been asked to gather in Adam Street last night in support of the pyre.

The new DUP leader and his deputy Paula Bradley spoke with community representatives.

In a Twitter post last night Mr Bryson said: "Brilliant that DUP leader & his deputy Paula Bradley have now come to the Tigers Bay bonfire to show their support."

It came as DUP First Minister Paul Givan called on nationalist politicians to "dial down the rhetoric" following tensions over the pyre.

He said DUP representatives in the area have "engaged extensively over the past two weeks to reduce any tension".

"I do think that nationalist representatives should be dialling down the rhetoric, they need to show better leadership on this particular issue," said the minister.

Nationalists residents in New Lodge have called for the material to be removed and Ms Mallon, who is an SDLP MLA for the area, said earlier this week "there should be no bonfire anywhere on an interface site here in Northern Ireland".

Later in a statement her department said it requested the assistance of the PSNI "in relation to a potential removal operation” at the site.

Ms Mallon didn’t rule out the possibility of legal action stressing she didn’t want to "get to that point".

It is believed nationalist residents may launch their own court challenge against the PSNI over its failure to intervene to date.

Ms Mallon has also held several meetings this week with her Department for Communities (DfC) counterpart Deirdre Hargey and justice chief Naomi Long to discuss the controversial bonfire issue.

In a statement the DfC, which owns approximately 20 per cent of the site, said "is minded to take legal action to require PSNI to ensure that the bonfire is cleared".

The PSNI said it would "continue to work with our partner agencies, community representatives and landowners to address community safety issues relating to bonfires."

UUP North Belfast representative Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston said the bonfire should not be removed.

“The removal of the Adam Street bonfire is not justified and would cause more harm than good," she said.

Meanwhile, a loyalist anti-protocol protest is due to be held in Belfast tomorrow.

The event is set to target the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) 'point of entry' at Duncrue Street.

A spokesman for Daera, which is headed by DUP minister Edwin Poots, last night said " the department wouldn’t have a response on planned protests".