Northern Ireland

Bonfire material gathered five months before July pyre date

‘Kill all Irish’ graffiti scrawled at south Belfast site

Pallets being collect for a eleventh night bonfire in the Sandy Road area south Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Bonfire Pallets being collect for a Eleventh Night bonfire in the Sandy Road area of south Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Concerns have been raised after what is believed to be bonfire material appeared in south Belfast - a full five months before the annual loyalist pyres are due to be lit.

Dozens of pallets have been stacked up in the Sandy Row and Donegall Road areas of the city in recent days.

Bonfires are traditionally lit in loyalist areas ahead of the Orange Order’s Twelfth of July parades, which are held across the north each year.

At one site in the Sandy Row area pallets have been collected and stacked close to hoarding, which appears to include the letters KAI (Kill all Irish) and FTPSNI (F**k the PSNI).

Pallets being collect for a eleventh night bonfire in the Sandy Road area south Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Bonfire Pallets being collect for a eleventh night bonfire in the Sandy Road area south Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

Israeli flags have also been attached to the hoarding.

In the Donegall Road area more material has been gathered close the Broadway roundabout, an interface with the nearby nationalist lower Falls district.

Loyalist bonfires, which are often put up on land owned by public bodies, have caused controversy in the past after election posters, flags and effigies were placed on them.

Belfast SDLP councillor Gary McKeown, whose own election poster was placed on a bonfire near the Westlink last year, spoke of his disappointment.

“It’s concerning to see pallets being collected over five months out from bonfire night, not to mention the array of hate-filled stereotypes that seem to be accompanying these examples,” he said.

“It’s also disappointing that for half of the year, this seems to be a preoccupation for some people.”

SDLP councillor Gary McKeown
SDLP councillor Gary McKeown

Mr McKeown urged people with influence to use it.

“I would urge those in a position of influence or leadership to direct the people involved towards a more productive course of action which delivers for the community rather than holding it back,” he said.

“There’s a responsibility to bring about aspiration and hope rather than stoking up fear and hatred by keeping people in a cycle of frustration.”

Concerns were raised last year after a hut built close to a pyre at Lisnasharragh Leisure Centre in east Belfast was decked out in violent, sectarian and Nazi images, which included a flag depicting a man holding a rocket launcher.

The safety of some bonfires has also been raised in the past.

In 2022 bonfire builder John Steele (36) died after falling from a pyre in the Antiville area of Larne in Co Antrim.

Builders in the nearby Craigyhill district have unsuccessfully attempted to have their pyre recognised by Guinness World Records.