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Controversial bonfire to go ahead in Derry's Bogside

The Bogside August 15 bonfire has been controversial in recent years.
Seamus McKinney

A controversial August 15 bonfire looks set to go ahead in Derry’s Bogside this Sunday.

While the exact location of the bonfire has not been made public, it is believed it will be built on a newly cleared construction site beside the former Bogside Inn at Lecky Road in the city.

Marking the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the annual Bogside bonfire has proved hugely controversial in the past after the names of murdered police and prison offers were placed on the structure. The bonfire is one of a number lit throughout Derry on the evening of August 15.

It comes as there appeared to be no anti-internment bonfires in west Belfast last weekend to mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of internment. Republicans have been trying to move away from bonfires for years but a number of pyres, attracting significant anti-social behaviour, have continued until this year.

Significant efforts have also been made in recent years to break the tradition of the August 15 bonfires in Derry which are often seen as a response to loyalist bonfires marking the Apprentice Boys’ celebrations in the city. Despite that, the Bogside bonfire usually attracts thousands of onlookers.

The gathering of material for the bonfire has been low-key in recent days and efforts have been made to limit disruption in the Bogside area, according to sources close to the organisers. It is understood extensive negotiations have taken place with the Bogside Republican Youth and local community groups behind the scenes.

Independent councillor, Paul Gallagher who chairs Derry and Strabane council’s bonfire committee, said a lot of work has been done to limit disruption.

“I believe young people have been engaging with community workers and that process is being seen to work. However, it is very important that no-one, either in the political or statutory sectors, does or says anything that could raise tensions in the days leading up to the bonfire. These things are always very finely balanced,” Mr Gallagher said.

Fellow independent councillor, Gary Donnelly said that while he believed there was “nothing positive” about bonfires, it was a fact of life that they did take place. Mr Donnelly said it was important that the Bogside bonfire organisers continued to work with community leaders.

“If bonfires are going to take place, it’s best that every effort is made to minimise the impact on the local area,” Mr Donnelly said.

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