Belfast Telegraph

Bonfires lit across Northern Ireland as thousands attend Eleventh Night celebrations

Members of the fire service work to contain an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Members of the fire service work to contain an 11th night Bonfire in Cluan Place, Belfast. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Thousands of people across Northern Ireland are attending the annual Eleventh Night celebrations.

Hundreds of bonfires will be set alight across the province, ranging from a few dozen to hundreds of pallets high.

It has long been tradition to burn bonfires in loyalist neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland on the night of July 11 as a way of celebrating the upcoming Twelfth.

Most Eleventh Night bonfires pass off without incident, with organisers promoting them as family-friendly cultural celebrations, but a number have become the source of controversy in recent years.

Just this week, Belfast City Council failed in its attempts to remove a contentious bonfire at Avoniel Leisure Centre in the east of the city.

The Eleventh Night is always one of the busiest for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS).

Last year, NIFRS received 327 emergency calls and dealt with 57 bonfire-related incidents between 6pm and 1am - the highest number in three years.

In decades past, there were far more bonfires than there are today, with many small fires constructed on street corners in loyalist neighbourhoods.

Over the years, however, resources have been pulled together and larger, more central pyres have been built at the heart of each neighbourhood.

There is also a competitive rivalry between areas as to who can build the biggest bonfire.

This year, some of the biggest bonfires are taking place in Antrim, Larne and Bangor.

In recent years, safety and environmental concerns have come to the fore, with statutory agencies restricting the use of tyres on bonfires and councils setting up regulated schemes for bonfire builders.

Many loyalists have seen attempts to clamp down on the scale of bonfires as an attack on their culture, leading to disorder breaking out on several occasions in the past.

On Friday, parades will take place across Northern Ireland for the annual Twelfth celebrations, marking the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690 - a triumph that secured a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend, either as participants or spectators.

Co Armagh will once again host the biggest gathering as Orangemen and women from across the county congregate in the village of Tandragee.

Upwards of 30 lodges and accompanying bands will take part in the Twelfth in Ballymena.

Alongside Ballymena, Belfast stages a Twelfth demonstration every year.

The Orange Order is expecting a large Scottish contingent in the city.

Orangemen and women representing a total of nine districts - accompanied by approximately 60 bands - will walk the six-mile Belfast route.

The Co Fermanagh demonstration will take place in Lisnaskea and play host to visiting lodges from counties Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan.

The largest individual lodge stepping out for the Twelfth will be on parade in the harbour town of Kilkeel while the south west Down Twelfth celebrations for 2019 will be held in Rathfriland.

Glenavy will play host to a Twelfth parade for the first time since 2005 while Carnlough will host the members of the Braid District Orange Lodge for the first time since 2013.

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