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DUP leader Donaldson says controversial Tigers Bay bonfire should stay

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DUP councillor Dean McCullough with party Leader Jeffrey Donaldson and deputy leader Paula Bradley at the Adam Street bonfire in Tigers Bay

DUP councillor Dean McCullough with party Leader Jeffrey Donaldson and deputy leader Paula Bradley at the Adam Street bonfire in Tigers Bay

Kevin Scott

DUP councillor Dean McCullough with party Leader Jeffrey Donaldson and deputy leader Paula Bradley at the Adam Street bonfire in Tigers Bay

A CONTROVERSIAL north Belfast bonfire should be allowed to stay, the DUP leader has said.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson visited the site at Adam Street in Tigers Bay yesterday evening alongside deputy leader Paula Bradley and other party colleagues.

Speaking to a crowd who gathered, Mr Donaldson said he made clear to the PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne the bonfire should be “permitted”.

He said he thought it was the “appropriate response” that community events and the Eleventh Night lighting of the pyre should go on.

The bonfire builders were due to meet SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon after she said the bonfire cannot “proceed” due to its sensitive location on the Tigers Bay/New Lodge interface and the fact it is on land owned by her department.

Mr Byrne had said the bonfire was the “most contentious” of 2021.

Nationalist residents have complained of loud music into the early hours and missile attacks on homes and cars launched from the bonfire.

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A video posted online shows a teenager standing on top of the pyre and using a club to hit golf balls over the interface into the New Lodge.

The PSNI told the Belfast Telegraph it was engaging with the community in the area.

Mr Donaldson said he met with Mr Byrne yesterday, telling the crowd the community should be “facilitated”.

“We made clear to the Chief Constable, where people are engaging in the tradition of building a bonfire, where they are doing it peacefully, where they are doing it in a way that is designed, that there is distance between here and the community in New Lodge, that this tradition should not only be permitted, but should be facilitated, in that people are wanting to pursue their traditional activities at this time of the year,” he said.

“Equally, we accord to others in the community what we ask for ourselves and I think that is a really important principle, that you as a community are not asking for something that you don’t expect from another community.

“We made it clear to the Chief Constable that we think the appropriate response is for the bonfire to remain, that we trust the community leadership to ensure it passes off peacefully and in a way that you can celebrate your culture and tradition as part of our community and to do so in a way that should be respected.

“At a time when tensions are already high around the protocol, you just want the right to have your evening here, to burn your bonfire.”

Earlier, First Minister Paul Givan called on nationalist politicians to “dial down the rhetoric” over the bonfire.

Mr Givan said DUP representatives in the area have “engaged extensively over the past two weeks to reduce any tension”, adding: “I do think that nationalist representatives should be dialling down the rhetoric, they need to show better leadership on this particular issue.”

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin told the BBC yesterday that residents in the New Lodge were being “tortured” with anti-social behaviour at the bonfire site.

She said residents complained of sectarian chanting, abuse and “missiles” being thrown into their area.

“I’m not interested in whipping up tensions or making this situation any worse, because it’s really bad, it really is bad,” she added.

“I believe it’s up to the bonfire builders and unionist politicians to use their influence to move that back off an interface, I think that would be a good gesture.”


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