Belfast Telegraph

King Billy becomes unlikely face of loyalist bonfire tyre concerns as artist displays posters in Belfast

By Claire Williamson

King Billy has become an unwitting environmentalist figure after an artist used him to draw upon concerns around tyres being set alight on loyalist bonfires.

The iconic image of Prince William of Orange on his white horse at the Battle of the Boyne is synonymous with the Twelfth of July celebrations.

However an anonymous artist appears to have used the image to create an environmental statement.

The burning of tyres on bonfires is illegal however they are still among the materials collected for some bonfires.

Posters of the artist's image have appeared in Belfast's Sandy Row but they are in stark contrast to the original image as it has King Billy and his white horse wearing gas masks.

They are seen towering over the pile of tyres while tall bonfires are seen in the background.

Some of the posters were vandalised almost as soon as they were put up.

Reacting to the images the Orange Order, which reiterated it does not organise or have any responsibility for bonfires, encouraged those involved not to accept tyres.

A spokesman said: “Bonfires are an important part of Protestant culture and the pre-Twelfth celebrations in July. However, we are conscious there are genuine health and environmental concerns about the burning of tyres on bonfires.

"We would encourage those involved in the erection of bonfires not to accept tyres."

Loyalist bonfires have come under criticism in the past for the use of tyres.

There was anger after tyres and wood pallets were dumped along the Flora Street walkway section of the £40million Connswater Greenway.

Alliance leader and east Belfast MLA Naomi Long branded it a disgrace.

They were subsequently removed.

Thursday marks 15 weeks until the annual Twelfth of July celebrations.

The upcoming marching season will be the first following the deal which saw Orange Order lodges end a long-running parading dispute to march past the Ardoyne shops in north Belfast.

Permission for the contentious procession past the nationalist Ardoyne was granted after a deal between the loyal orders and nationalist residents' group the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association.

In September the Parades Commission - a Government-appointed adjudication body - ruled Orangemen from three lodges could march along the contested stretch of Crumlin Road under strict conditions from 8.30am.

The deal ended a tense three-year stand-off and lead to the dismantling of a loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue set up in 2013.

It allowed Orangemen and two bands to complete the outstanding leg of their 2013 Twelfth of July commemorations past a sectarian flashpoint where serious rioting has erupted in the past.

The three-year Twaddell protest cost over £21 million to police.

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