Northern Ireland news

Name of murdered police officer displayed on republican bonfire

 Flags (clockwise from top left) a Union flag, a loyalist paramilitary UDA flag, the Israeli Defence Force and an orange order flag, with a Royal British Legion poppy wreath, hung on a large bonfire being built to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption in the Bogside area of Derry. Picture date: Sunday August 15, 2021.
PA reporter

Poppy wreaths and a banner carrying the name of a murdered police officer were among items placed on contentious republican bonfires ahead of them being lit on Sunday night.

The name of constable Ronan Kerr, who was murdered by dissident republicans in Omagh in 2011, was clearly visible on the side of a pyre in the Bogside area of Derry on Sunday evening.

Another threatening placard on the bonfire named current Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Simon Byrne.

Threats to other named individuals were also displayed.

Union flags, Israeli flags and British military insignia, including that of the Parachute Regiment, were also tied to the fire prior to it being lit late on Sunday night.

Members of the Parachute Regiment were responsible for shooting dead 13 civil rights demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

Similar flags and emblems were displayed on another bonfire in Derry’s Galliagh area on Sunday.

Bonfires are traditionally lit in nationalist areas of Derry on August 15 to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption.

The fires are also associated with the August anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles and this year the bonfire building happened on the same weekend that unionists and loyalists participated in the annual Apprentice Boys Relief of Derry commemorations.

Republican and loyalist bonfires continue to be a source of controversy in Northern Ireland.

Bonfire builders from both communities have provoked anger in the past by burning symbols associated with the other’s culture on their fires.

The PSNI said it was aware of a banner on the Bogside bonfire that was making threats towards police officers and a member of the public.

Chief Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “The display of this material has been perceived as both offensive and distasteful.

“An evidence-gathering operation was in place during this incident and we will now review this to establish if any offences occurred. If any offences are detected, a full police investigation will be carried out.”

He urged anyone with information to come forward.

DUP Assembly member for Foyle Gary Middleton condemned the placing of offensive items on the Bogside fire.

“As a society we must never become desensitised to displays of hatred, and intolerance,” he tweeted.

“The clear motive behind this display is to cause further hurt and offence upon those who have already suffered so much.”

Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan has condemned displays of hatred and sectarianism at a controversial bonfire held in Derry last night.

The Foyle MLA said:

"The scenes witnessed at a bonfire which took place in the Bogside last night were disgraceful.

"These displays of sectarianism and hate have no place in our society and are not representative of the local community.

"This was in stark contrast to the many excellent community events held throughout the area organised by the Gasyard Féile and supported by community organisations which were widely supported.

"It is time these illegal bonfires which promote hatred come to an end once and for all."

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