Two nights of disturbances in the Galliagh area of Derry have been squarely blamed on an oppressive swoop by the PSNI and council authorities on material which had been collected by local youths for a traditional nationalist bonfire.
The failure to offer an alternative to the local community or to support local calls for a supervised and regulated bonfire had disastrous consequences. In scenes which were a repeat of last year, local anger was expressed with burning barricades and hijacked vehicles.
Among the disturbances on Monday and Tuesday nights, cars and buses were also stoned, while one youth was reported to have suffered serious facial injuries from an exploding vehicle.
A video also emerged of the sound of shots being fired under the cover of darkness in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a possible attempt local republicans to intervene.
The authorities were widely blamed for initiating the widely predictable disorder on Monday with the early-morning seizure of bonfire material which had been gathered over weeks.
Traditionally, bonfires are lit on August 15 in Derry to mark a Catholic feast day celebrating the assumption of the Virgin Mary into Heaven and are also linked to the anniversary in August of the introduction of internment without trial. However, they have also been marred by sectarianism and other forms of anti-social activity.
The recent cancellation of a similar nationalist bonfire in Derry’s Bogside had been welcomed by local residents, but failed to draw any practical response from the authorities. While other areas have received large-scale funding for music or other diversionary events, the Galliagh bonfire is becoming an annual site of planned mayhem.
Adding to the sense of injustice in the area is the sight of a growing pyre across the river in the loyalist Irish Street, supported by loyalist paramilitaries, which is being allowed to be burned on Friday night despite involving a pile of toxic tyres.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party, which was heavily involved in ending the Bogside bonfire, was furious at the scenes in Galliagh.
They said, “Those who sat behind closed doors and took the decision to send contractors and PSNI into Galliagh to remove bonfire materials should not be allowed to sit back and wash their hands of this decision. They should be held accountable to our community.”
They added: “What is happening is wrong and should stop, but this was 100% predictable, and the blame lies not only with those involved in the anti-community activity but also with those who sent in the contractors and PSNI.
“It was a disastrous decision taken against the advice of community activists and has undone many hundreds of hours of good work in our community.”