Belfast Telegraph

Bonfires blaze as nationalists mark internment date

By Rebecca Black

Orange banners and Union flags were among the items that went up in flames yesterday as bonfires took place marking the anniversary of the introduction of internment.

A small number of blazes were lit across nationalist areas of Belfast last night to mark the controversial remand without charge of mainly Catholic men on August 9, 1971.

However, while bonfires on August 8 are the traditional way the event is noted, nationalist and republican politicians condemned the practice.

Sinn Fein MLA Fra McCann said there was work being done in republican communities to try and bring people away from the bonfires.

SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said most people in west Belfast did not want them.

Meanwhile, DUP minister Nelson McCausland claimed two commemorative banners had been stolen from the Shore Road and placed on one of the internment bonfires.

The banners had been erected in St Aubyn Street and Keadyville Avenue as part of the area's Twelfth celebrations.

"The ritualistic theft and burning of items associated with the culture and identity of the unionist and Protestant community on republican bonfires is nothing less than an act of sectarian bigotry and hatred," he said.

"Those responsible for the theft of these banners travelled some distance, clearly intent on targeting symbols of unionist culture."

Mr McCausland said that information about the theft of the banners had been passed to the PSNI.

"Those responsible for posting the images of the stolen banners on social media are clearly identifiable and this information has now been passed to the police," he said. "I am calling on republican politicians to intervene and have the stolen banners returned immediately."

Earlier this week a 13-year-old boy was arrested after a petrol bomb was thrown following a stand-off during the removal of wood from a bonfire by council workers.

The workers removed pallets from the anti-internment pyre at Cullingtree Road in west Belfast.

A 19-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour and possession of a petrol bomb.

Both were later released on police bail pending further enquiries.

Meanwhile, a day centre for vulnerable adults was closed on safety grounds due to the proximity of another bonfire. Mica Day Centre in Beechmount is attended by around 40 people with learning difficulties. A spokesman for the health trust said the decision was taken to reduce anxieties.

Belfast Telegraph

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