Culture of hate


Stung by criticism that it has conspired in loyalist paramilitary crime, Belfast city councillors have now attempted to limit the size of four ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfires, despite having previously funded and supported the infamously sectarian displays.

The council received an injunction aimed at stopping further material being added to the four bonfire sites in east Belfast. The surprise move follows widespread criticism of the council’s support for the intimidating blazes.

It was previously revealed that the council offered financial support and a controversial storage service for the material burned by the loyalists bonfire gangs, much of which turned out to be stolen property.

Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh said the move didn’t go far enough.

“I’ve been saying for some time now that the council should seek injunctions for fires on their land and I’m glad that they finally have,” he said.

“However, if they are saying that this will only be partially enforced by stopping further material being added to the fires then it doesn’t go far enough.

“Some of these fires are already far too big and cause a significant risk to nearby property.

“The council has employed a contractor to remove material from sites and those workers should now be given police protection to do their job.

“If the police do not give protection to city council contractors then they will be in dereliction of their duty.”

SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said legal intervention in the case of illegal bonfires was a”positive development” that could be considered by other councils.

“This is the first time that the law has intervened in relation to bonfires and that is positive”, he said.

“For the law to be exercised in this way is a desirable thing and this should now be proper enforcement around this injunction”, he added.


But prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson described the move as “outrageous” and “inflammatory”. He described the bonfires, upon which images and effigies of Irish nationalists and nationalism are usually burned in a message of hate, as loyalist culture.

This week, one bonfire supported by Belfast City Council caught light prematurely, creating a major fire incident on Wednesday. A nearby art gallery was subsequently threatened by the angry gang and subjected to an extortion bid to raise funds for replacement fuel.

“One of the gallery volunteers has got told to go back to her own country,” they said.

Bonfire gangs have also blocked off a street where material was gathered near a ‘peaceline’ in west Belfast, with a sign blaming the action on the “threat on our culture from nationalists”.

The PSNI police have yet to take action over the street closure. Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey said no area should be shut off.

“It should be open for business and it is uncalled for that it has been closed for use,” he said.

“This is totally unacceptable. It is bad enough that there is a bonfire in the area, but it is uncalled for those people involved have now closed the road also.”

And images of a towering bonfire built across the road from a petrol station has brought international media attention to the predominately unionist town of Carrickfergus, County Antrim.

As images of the giant pile of pallets looming behind a working petrol station generated amazement on social media, one local unionist councillor Billy Ashe insisted: “I haven’t been made aware of any concerns.”

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