Belfast Telegraph

PSNI questions four over controversial bonfire in Bogside

By Eamon Sweeney

The PSNI in Londonderry have interviewed a number of people in connection with alleged offences at a controversial bonfire in the city's Bogside eight months ago.

Tension mounted in the district over several days last August after police moved in to remove material for the pyre that had been stockpiled close to disused commercial premises and nearby homes. In the end, another fire was erected on the main road through the area and set ablaze as part of the annual anti-internment commemorations.

The bonfire, attended by hundreds of onlookers, consisted mainly of tyres and wooden pallets, and was decorated with several Sinn Fein and unionist election posters.

News that some people have been interviewed in relation to offences related to the Road Traffic Order and criminality have drawn accusations of political policing from a man who works with young people in the district.

Liam O'Donnell, a voluntary community worker, said: "A number of young people and older men received letters from police giving them seven days to report to the police. Those that didn't were subsequently arrested. I've never seen this before, and in my opinion it is politically motivated. If any of these young people are charged over this it may affect their future prospects."

Mr O'Donnell also said in a Facebook post on the matter that the incident was "an affront to any right thinking person hoping to create a pathway to securing good community relations".

The PSNI told the Belfast Telegraph: "Police in Strand Road have identified a number of people and interviewed four people in relation to offences concerned with the Road Traffic Order and criminality at a bonfire on August 15, 2016.

"The investigation is ongoing. No one has been charged at this time."

When asked if any political representative had made a complaint about their poster being burned on the bonfire and if they wished to respond to accusations of politically motivated policing, the PSNI said that there "was no further information being given out at present".

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