Sectarian tensions mount ahead of ‘Twelfth’

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There are fears of trouble at a flashpoint in north Belfast in the coming weeks after the letters KAT, which means ‘Kill All Taigs’, were scrawled close to a notorious bonfire site.

Tension has heightened this year after threats of violence by loyalist paramilitaries and politicians.

The annual bonfire at the interface between the nationalist New Lodge and the loyalist Tigers Bay typically sees missiles and sectarian abuse hurled at nationalist residents.

It is one of scores to be lit to mark the eve of the ‘Twelfth’ (July 12), ahead of the climax of a series of parades by the anti-Catholic Orange Order. Loyalist paramilitaries organise drug-fuelled sectarian raves at the bonfires which often damage nearby buildings.

Wooden pallets are now once again being stacked across the North, including at the site at Adam Street. There were calls this week for the offensive graffiti to be removed and for action to be taken to remove the bonfire material.

Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee said both the sectarian scrawl and the bonfire itself should go.

“The graffiti and the bonfire should be removed so that all the tension is taken out of the area and that residents of Duncairn Gardens, New Lodge and Tigers Bay are left in peace,” he said.

Last year, golf balls were fired at nationalists from top of the pallets and a tricolour placed on it before it was set alight. A legal action brought by a nationalist resident seeking the bonfire’s demolition failed to prevent it being lit, despite winning the support of two Stormont Ministers.

The PSNI claimed any action against the bonfire would create a “real and immediate risk to life”, without explanation.

Meanwhile, a controversial “orange arch” has been erected in the Glengormley area against the wishes of the majority of residents there.

The PSNI blocked roads refusing access to residents in order to facilitate loyalist paramilitaries bringing in lifting equipment to erect the symbol of the anti-Catholic Orange Order, which stretches across the width of a main road.

According to the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, complaints by residents against the display of loyalist territory have “fallen on deaf ears” for years.

They advised people living in the area “to remain vigilant and be safe” throughout the period ahead.

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