Bonfires build as Foster criticises ‘anti-Orange’ prejudice

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The unionist paramilitary UVF are being blamed for an ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire being built close to a children’s play park in a built-up residential area of Belfast.

More than 1,000 pallets and six black oil drums have already been assembled to an area off the Newtownards Road near Ravenscroft Avenue. East Belfast cleric Lucas Parks, whose grandfather was an Orangeman, said he was highlighting his concern now because many others living in the area were afraid to do so.

“It’s a UVF bonfire; it’s an overtly sectarian bonfire - tricolours get burned,” he said. He said he worried about anti-social behaviour in the run-up to the Eleventh Night, the night before the biggest day of the year for sectarian Protestant marches.

Belfast City Council, which owns the public car park where the fire is being built, said it would allow ts to proceed.

“We will continue to work with elected members and key stakeholders to address how bonfires are managed and to minimise any potential negative impacts on local residents,” the council said. “The approach to managing bonfires is a member-led issue and a member-led decision making process has been agreed.”

Meanwhile, dozens of UDA paramilitary flags have been erected in south Belfast in recent days, including outside a primary School.

The SDLP’s Donal Lyons said the appearance of the flags at Taughmonagh Primary School was “outrageous” and shows there are some who continue to act as if they’re “beyond the law”.

“The fact that these UDA flags have been put up at the entrance to a primary school and outside the local community centre where young children will be forced to pass under them is particularly outrageous,” he said. There is no justification for these flags to be up and no reason that they should stay up”.

Another nationalist SDLP politician was mocked by paramilitaries after a bonfire sign was erected of him wearing an Orange sash. Former Assembly member John Dallat is depicted (inset) in Limavady wearing in an Orange sash and includes a message that reads, “Dump bonfire wood”.

“I will be taking this intimation seriously,” he said. “I have asked the PSNI to interview the culprits with a view to prosecuting them.”

Separately, around 30 pallets were burnt prematurely this week at a bonfire site on the Sandy Row in south Belfast (pictured). It is the second such case of bonfire material being set ablaze before the marching season gets underway.

The incident comes despite city council funding of over £26,521 for the paramilitary-linked Belfast South Community Resources, based in Sandy Row, to organise a “bonfire diversion”.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she wants to work with the anti-Catholic Orange Order to challenge “bigotry and prejudice” towards the organisation.

The Orange Order, which only admits Protestants, was described recently as a “reservoir of anti-Catholicism and sectarianism” by Presbyterian Moderator Rev Ken Newell. On July 12, they organise the annual Twelfth parades, which celebrate the Battle of the Boyne, a 17th century battle victory over Catholics.

“I want to work with the Orange Institution to ensure the bigotry and prejudice shown toward its members, halls and parades is challenged,” Ms Foster said, without irony. “There is no place for such intolerance in 2018”.

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