Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly has called for a loyalist bonfire in the New Lodge area of Belfast to be removed from a sectarian interface after golf balls were fired from the site aimed at houses and vehicles in nationalist areas.
Video footage showed a loyalist hitting golf balls into the New Lodge area from the bonfire site. Built in Adam Street close to Duncairn Gardens, the bonfire location has caused grave concern in recent years.
Mr Kelly said the bonfire “was deliberately sited close to the nationalist New Lodge to create interface trouble”.
“It was pure luck that no residents were injured. Residents and local political representatives were there until late in the night and also witnessed petrol bombs being thrown.
“Residents should not have to endure such attacks which have been growing in number.
“If there is a wish to have a bonfire in the [loyalist] Tiger’s Bay area then it must be moved away from the interface as it is the scene that sectarian attacks are launched from.”
The bonfire is one of several being built in advance of the ‘Eleventh Night’ (July 11), the eve of the biggest day of sectarian anti-Catholic parades in the North, and the height of the Orange Order’s marching season.
Smaller parades have been taking place over the summer and many have been used as protests to threaten violence in response to the Brexit outcome and its Irish Protocol.
A major loyalist event in Newtownards last weekend made headlines because of the explicit nature of the loyalist threats, including one large banner directed at the Dublin government which read “Peace or Protocol”. One loyalist woman told journalists she would be ‘willing to give her life’ to fight new health and safety checks at the North’s seaports.
At one recent parade in Carrick Hill in Belfast, nationalist residents were told they “better go home quick” by the PSNI police as they facilitated the parades’s passage through a sealed-off nationalist area.
Members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement who were observing the parade were targeted for police harassment with a bogus charge of ‘loitering’ in what the organisation said was “a clear attempt to gain some form of reaction”.
Meanwhile, loyalist posters threatening violence have reappeared in Newbuildings in County Derry. The posters – which first appeared in March – were re-erected on Wednesday night on the main Derry to Strabane road through the town.
Along with a picture of a masked loyalist gunman, the placards, in the name of ‘Loyalist Newbuildings’ carry the message “No border in the sea or we continue the fight”.
Sinn Féin deputy mayor of Derry, Christopher Jackson said there was a deliberate and reckless attempt to stoke up tensions ahead of the marching season.
“This sets a very dangerous precedent. It’s outrageous that people have to drive past a poster of a masked loyalist gunman threatening violence on their way to work or school.
“The police need to investigate those responsible for putting up these posters and ensure they are removed immediately.”
Mr Jackson also called on unionist leaders in the area to condemn what he described as a sinister and threatening message.
“I would appeal to those who are representative of the unionist community to step forward and show leadership,” he said.
Loyalist flags continue to be erected in several mixed areas of the North in recent weeks, and nationalists have been urged to remain calm.
The 32CSM said it was clear that hardline loyalists are using the current climate to “stoke the flames” and were looking for ways to pass blame onto the nationalist/republican community.
“It would also seem that these loyalist paramilitaries have the backing of the old guard of RUC/PSNI whose ranks are filled with British army personnel dressed in black boiler suits,” they said.
“Over the next few weeks and months as the loyalist marching season gets into full swing, we expect our communities to face more of this political policing to placate the orange hatefest and we would advise everyone living in areas such as Carrick Hill to remain vigilant.”