Loyalists all fired up - Union flag dispute fuels trend for even bigger Eleventh Night pyres
Published 11/07/2013 | 01:30
Hundreds of bonfires will be lit across Northern Ireland tonight to mark the Eleventh Night.
The traditional symbols signalling the night before the Twelfth celebrations seem to have become even bigger this year.
In the run-up to the annual event, bonfires have once again led to concerns over their safety.
Last month residents in Newtownabbey's loyalist Ballyduff estate spoke out about fears a giant bonfire could lead to their homes being set alight if the 66ft structure raged out of control. According to residents, the bonfire had been lit in the estate "for generations" but this was the first time it had led to safety concerns.
Nicknamed 'the Beast', the monster construction, which was almost twice the size of nearby houses and less than 100 yards from gardens, has been moved. Organisers had said they wanted it to be "the biggest in Europe".
The trend towards bigger bonfires this year has led to suggestions it is linked to anger over restrictions on the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.
In a separate incident, a sprawling bonfire in Antrim town collapsed twice within days close to residents' oil tanks. And in a Co Londonderry village it emerged that up to 300 homes would be without electricity tonight because a bonfire could ignite overhead power lines.
Residents in Articlave were furious after being told the bonfire poses a serious risk to health and safety – despite being built in the same spot as previous years.
The South Eastern Education and Library Board is also in talks after a 35ft-high pyre was built without its knowledge on its land in Dunmurry's Mosside area, in the middle of a large housing estate.
However, a number of sites will use eco-friendly beacon structures at tonight's celebrations.
Reusable, two-part steel bonfire beacons will be lit in Castlereagh, Ballynahinch, Downpatrick and Newtownards.
Meanwhile, the Fire Service is urging the public to think 'safety first' at bonfires after firefighters were called out to 29 bonfire-related incidents on the Eleventh Night last year.