A number of potentially toxic Eleventh Night bonfires in Belfast have caused fear and alarm, including one outside a city centre hotel and others near houses in east Belfast.
Despite the dangers, many bonfires have once again received government funding through local councils without any restriction on the display of racist or sectarian items. Despite promises to reduce the flying of loyalist paramilitary flags at the bondfires UVF and UDA flags have appeared in the lower Shankill and Rathcoole estates.
The Holiday Inn in Hope Street, a destination for American tourists, has again been placed in danger by a giant bonfire. Local SDLP representative Claire Hanna said: “At a time when we are trying to grow our tourism industry, this is utterly insane. The last thing that visitors staying in any hotel want to do is look out on such a mess.”
One bonfire site on the Comber Greenway was attended by thugs operating from a caravan with a UVF flag and KAT (‘Kill All Taigs [Catholics]’) painted on it. Another site displayed a pallet with the sign ‘Foreigners Out’.
Last year, residents were forced out of their homes and their windows had to be boarded up because of the searing heat from a towering 50ft bonfire situated yards from houses on Chobham Street. This year, kids’ play equipment has had to be removed from the area because of the dangers posed by the fire.
The collection of bonfire material at Lanark Way in west Belfast has seen the general dumping of household waste. There was a similar situation in Larne, when an abandoned car appeared among wood and rubble left in the Craigyhill estate.
Meahwile, a banner glorifying former loyalist leader Billy Wright has been put up in Dungannon.
The poster bearing the image of LVF leader known as ‘King Rat’ was recently erected in the Eastvale Avenue area of Dungannon, close to the site of an Eleventh Night bonfire.
It reads “In proud and memory of Brigadier Billy Wright” and carries the quote “I would look back and say Cappagh was probably my best”.
It is believed this refers to the murder of four men in Cappagh, near Dungannon, in March 1991.
There was controversy last year when a similar banner was put up in memory of UVF killer Wesley Somerville in nearby Moygashel.
Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson said the Wright poster has “no place in a civilised society”.
“It is designed to cause further hurt to already grieving families,” he said. “No-one in our society should be engaged in such provocative and depraved behaviour.”
And violence erupted in Carrickfergus, County Antrim last weekend when a mob of over a hundred loyalists descended on the home of one alleged paramilitary figure amid a feud between different groups over the ownership of an ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire.
The incident is believed to be linked to an ongoing feud between the South East Antrim UDA.
A video posted online shows a mob of around 100 men, many of them masked and carrying weapons, marching towards the home of George Gilmore in the Glenfield estate.
Gilmore and his brother Thompson were recently arrested and questioned about the murder and disappearance of Mark Gourley, the vulnerable 38-year-old was believed to have been abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the UDA in March 2009.
Recent infighting between the leadership of the South East Antrim UDA and rival loyalists in Carrickfergus has resulted in disturbances including a shooting in June.