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Bonfire row should never have gone to court, DUP says

A legal bid to force police to intervene on the bonfire in the loyalist area of Tiger’s Bay in north Belfast failed on Friday.

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A controversial loyalist bonfire built at the interface in north Belfast dividing loyalist Tigers Bay and nationalist New Lodge (Liam McBurney/PA)

A controversial loyalist bonfire built at the interface in north Belfast dividing loyalist Tigers Bay and nationalist New Lodge (Liam McBurney/PA)

A controversial loyalist bonfire built at the interface in north Belfast dividing loyalist Tigers Bay and nationalist New Lodge (Liam McBurney/PA)

A legal bid to force police in Northern Ireland to assist in removing a contentious loyalist bonfire should never have been taken to court, a DUP MLA has stated.

William Humphrey said public money had been squandered in the proceedings taken by Sinn Fein Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon against the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) over its decision not to intervene on the bonfire in the loyalist area of Tiger’s Bay in north Belfast.

The police declined to offer protection to removal contractors, citing concerns that their intervention could lead to disorder.

The ministers’ bid to compel the police to act failed at emergency High Court proceedings on Friday.

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DUP MLA for north Belfast William Humphrey, said he expects the bonfire to pass off peacefully (Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP MLA for north Belfast William Humphrey, said he expects the bonfire to pass off peacefully (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

DUP MLA for north Belfast William Humphrey, said he expects the bonfire to pass off peacefully (Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP ministers had earlier questioned the authority of the ministers to take legal action against the PSNI without the approval of the wider Executive.

The bonfire is now set to be lit on Sunday night as part of traditional “Eleventh Night” events.

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Nationalist residents claim they are living in fear and have been attacked by missiles thrown by loyalist bonfire builders.

Loyalists have rejected suggestions the siting of the bonfire was deliberately provocative and have accused nationalists and republicans of whipping up tensions in an effort to deny them what they view as a legitimate celebration of their culture.

The reality is the bonfire is smaller than it has been in previous years, it has been moved back, there is nothing offensive on the bonfire and it is a small, children's bonfireWilliam Humphrey MLA

Mr Humphrey told the PA news agency: “We are very pleased and relieved at the ruling, it is a case that frankly shouldn’t have been taken in the first place. We are pleased that the judge dismissed the case.

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Craigyhill bonfire in Larne.  Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Hugo checks out what all the fuss is about at the Craigyhill in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Hugo checks out what all the fuss is about at the Craigyhill in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire stands tall overlooking Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Visitors view the Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. 

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021

A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay.

Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

PressEye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 10th July 2021 A general view of the bonfire in Tiger's Bay. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Press Eye/Philip Magowan

Bonfire under construction in Portadown, Co Armagh. (Press Eye Ltd)

Bonfire under construction in Portadown, Co Armagh. (Press Eye Ltd)

A bonfire in the Loyalist Tigers Bay Area, Belfast, that is situated on the peace line. Pic Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A bonfire in the Loyalist Tigers Bay Area, Belfast, that is situated on the peace line. Pic Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town.  Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town. Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town.  Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A massive bonfire in the loyalist Craigyhill area of Larne dwarfs local houses in the seaside town. Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

A massive bonfire is placed opposite a fire station in Newtownards.  Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A massive bonfire is placed opposite a fire station in Newtownards. Loyalists across Northern Ireland have been building bonfires in preparation for the eleventh night celebrations, as part of a loyalist tradition to mark the anniversary of the Protestant King William's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Picture date: Thursday July 1, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

PA

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

Bonfire under construction. (Press Eye Ltd)

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Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

“The ministers have squandered taxpayers’ money on the case and really what they would be better placed doing is working with the community in Tiger’s Bay in developing the site, because the site has sat for many years and neither department has shown any interest in developing it.”

Mr Humphrey added: “Tensions were deliberately raised this year by people who were saying we should dial down the rhetoric, yet those same people were the people who were working with solicitors in terms of putting together court cases.

“They were raising tensions and not giving proper responsible leadership to the community in north Belfast. The reality is the bonfire is smaller than it has been in previous years, it has been moved back, there is nothing offensive on the bonfire and it is a small, children’s bonfire.

“I just left the site and there are a handful of people there. We don’t expect there to be any trouble, we don’t want any trouble. If people are intent on causing trouble they should stay away and let the community celebrate its culture.”

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Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay welcomed the court ruling (Simon Graham/PA)

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay welcomed the court ruling (Simon Graham/PA)

PA

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay welcomed the court ruling (Simon Graham/PA)

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file PSNI officers, said the court decision was good news because it meant police officers would not be “thrown into the middle”.

Chairman Mark Lindsay told the BBC: “I am very disappointed that two of the (Government) departments who should have had this issue sorted a year ago hadn’t (done so) … and, once again, we’re trying to throw police into a crisis they hadn’t sorted out.

“It’s really good news for our officers that they are not being thrown into the middle of what really is a horrendous situation for them.”

There's been very hard won relationships built in both those areas and I think that for policing to be thrown into the middle and to actually come toe-to-toe, if you like, fighting with people from those communities is not good newsMark Lindsay

He added: “There’s been very hard-won relationships built in both those areas and I think that for policing to be thrown into the middle and to actually come toe-to-toe, if you like, fighting with people from those communities, is not good news for anybody.

“It’s certainly not good news for policing and definitely not good news for those communities.”

The road on Adam Street where the Tiger’s Bay bonfire has been built is owned by the Department of Infrastructure while an adjacent piece of land where building materials have been collected is owned by the Department of Communities.

The two departments had sought and secured the assistance of Belfast City Council (BCC) to remove the pyre.

However, in order for BCC contractors to carry out the operation, they needed protection from the PSNI.

The police have refused to do so, having made the assessment that an intervention would risk disorder, placing people congregating at the bonfire, including several children, at risk.

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Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, of Sinn Fein, said she was disappointed with the court ruling (Rebecca Black/PA)

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, of Sinn Fein, said she was disappointed with the court ruling (Rebecca Black/PA)

PA

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, of Sinn Fein, said she was disappointed with the court ruling (Rebecca Black/PA)

Responding to the failure of her legal challenge, Ms Hargey said: “I took the court action as Communities Minister to prevent the destruction of land which is in public ownership and to protect the wider public interest against threats of violence or damage to property and safety.

“I am disappointed with the decision. It remains my view that this illegal bonfire is not appropriate at this interface location.”

Meanwhile, up to 70 bonfires will be lit on Saturday night as traditional “Eleventh Night” events begin.

There are 237 bonfires planned for across Northern Ireland this weekend as the “Eleventh Night” falls on a Sunday this year. A small number were lit on Friday, with the majority to be lit late on Sunday

The bonfires usher in the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season – the Twelfth of July.

While the majority pass off each year without incident, some remain the source of community tension, with authorities previously having intervened to remove towering pyres on health and safety grounds.


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