Government urges more effective dialogue around bonfires
The Government has urged more effective dialogue around bonfires.
A Belfast pensioner and a family were left homeless after embers from an Eleventh night blaze near the Shankill Road set fire to a row of terraced houses.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "This, together with burning of flags and election posters at certain bonfires, as well as the environmental damage caused by burning tyres, is a reminder of the need for effective dialogue around bonfires - so that this important cultural expression can be enjoyed by all."
Mr Flanagan said a new commission on identity and tradition established as part of Stormont's Fresh Start Agreement should consider the issue.
A senior police officer has defended his force's handling of a practice lauded by some as cultural expression but condemned by others as sectarian.
Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable Stephen Martin responded to criticism that the organisation failed to act against potential law breakers and called f or a collective approach to tackling the annual problem.
He said: "The best way to improve the situation is through consultation; through dialogue and through partnership between the police, the other agencies, political and civic leaders and, critically, communities must be at the heart of this."
More than 300 bonfires were lit on Monday night, kick-starting the annual Twelfth of July celebrations.
Two terraced houses in the Shankill area of west Belfast were destroyed and another was badly damaged after embers blew on to the roofs, causing a fire.
There was also controversy around the burning of tyres, election posters and Irish tricolours while the height and location of some of the towering structures caused outrage in some areas, with at least one bonfire being built close to a new children's play park in east Belfast.
Mr Martin, who has responsibility for overseeing operations around bonfires and parading, added: "I am required in law to consider the necessity and proportionality of my actions.
"Often I take a view that enforcement action is not proportionate in the circumstances, albeit I fully recognise that is what some people would want.
"Police deal with crimes and some of the crimes involved would be extremely difficult to prove.
"For example, whilst putting an election poster on a bonfire might be very distressful to the person whose image is on it, and the political party involved might hold very strong feelings about it, the offence in reality is likely to be the theft of a piece of paper.
"In considering enforcement action, I have to think about the consequences of police action.
"I have to balance the benefits of recovering the poster to prove an offence of theft that would be very difficult to identify someone for, against the risk that police intervening would create increased tension and risk of disorder and then correspondingly the increased risk of police having to use force to quell that disorder.
"Added to that, the law around hate crimes and incidents in Northern Ireland differs from other UK regions.
"The hate element must accompany a specific substantive criminal offence for example theft or criminal damage.
"The PSNI is on record as calling for a discussion on the need for specific hate crime legislation in Northern Ireland.
"I can assure the public that we take all hate incidents and crimes extremely seriously and will ensure they are investigated appropriately."
Filmed this at Coolfin street beside City Hospital just now pic.twitter.com/lj9HitPCh6— Declan Lawn (@DecLawn) July 11, 2016
Crowd being moved back at Chobham St bonfire in case it falls forward pic.twitter.com/FReywn0TID— Maria McCann (@journomaria) July 11, 2016
Flames getting higher at Sandy Row pic.twitter.com/TIwwKwQSS2— Damien Edgar (@damien_utv) July 11, 2016
Here's hoping for a quiet 11th night, I really hope everyone will take care and come safe.— Dale Ashford (@NIFRSAshford) July 11, 2016
Depressing to still see Irish flags burned on bonfires for #EleventhNight. Celebrating your culture doesn't require disrespecting others'.— Christine Quigley (@c_quigley) July 11, 2016
Well done Ladyhill Bonfire Group .. Donation to Meningitis NI .. & great turnout from families and local groups pic.twitter.com/tsQug6nPp5— Danny Kinahan (@DdeBK) July 11, 2016
Chobham Street Bonfire— Gary (@UlstersNo1) July 11, 2016
east Belfast pic.twitter.com/1HuRSS1s7g
Just the standard Cluan Place bonfire, on a road, damaging public property and burning flags. pic.twitter.com/5AQb0HPIRL— Kris Nixon (@belfastbarman) July 11, 2016
Everyone welcome. All inclusive event we're told. Even "Taigs" like me? pic.twitter.com/hdqOX7o0tI— Orla Boyle (@The__Boyler) July 11, 2016
Oh joy, I can hear the pipes and drums in the distance #EleventhNight— Rachel (@rmoomin84) July 11, 2016
You couldn't move for the Prime Time specials and liberal think pieces if this was somehow a Republican bonfire. pic.twitter.com/7kSFu4jOpW— Paul Reynolds (@PaulFedayn) July 11, 2016
The only bonfire our wee one is bigger than is last yearspic.twitter.com/B1HcXwqmL5— Izzy (@Izzy_Giles) July 11, 2016
1st call from a constituent telling me my posters are on Bonfire in Ballymena area.— Patrice Hardy (@MisssPatrice) July 11, 2016
I ran for election in 2014.
What idiot kept my posters?
Bonfire before it gets lit pic.twitter.com/21PBzBxRev— Kacey :)) (@kaceylovessam) July 11, 2016
Responsible adults should look after lighting bonfires - before lighting the fire, check that no children or pets are hiding inside it— NIFRS (@NIFRSOFFICIAL) July 11, 2016