Belfast Telegraph

Firemen use water jets to cool houses as pyres light up night sky

By Chris McCuulough and Lesley-Anne McKeown

Bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland at the weekend as the Twelfth of July celebrations got under way.

In east Belfast, more than 30 firefighters used water jets to cool properties at Chobham Street after the bonfire went up in flames on Saturday night.

Although a bonfire has been built on the site just off Newtownards Road for many years, there was some controversy over its size and proximity to terraced houses this year.

More than 50 homes were boarded up and a number of residents moved out after warnings that their lives and properties were in danger.

Meanwhile, in New Mossley, Co Antrim, one of the largest fires collapsed soon after it was ignited, but there were no reports of any injuries.

The Alliance Party has said it will be asking the PSNI to investigate after election posters and flags were burnt on a fire.

East Belfast councillor Michael Long, whose wife, Naomi Long, is the area's former MP, said: "Alliance has no issue with anyone celebrating their culture in a respectful and tolerant manner.

"However, placing Alliance posters on bonfires, as happened in east Belfast and east Antrim among other locations, as well as those from other parties and national flags, is neither respectful nor tolerant.

At Chobham Street yesterday most residents had returned to their homes and removed the timber sheets protecting their windows and doors from the huge fire - only about 10 metres away from the end of the street.

One resident said: "It was a great night. People really enjoyed themselves and all went relatively smoothly.

"There has been a lot of attention thrown towards our wee street and we hope now we can get back to a relatively normal life. It seems like this was the last bonfire to be built on the site, as there are plans afoot to build a children's playground."

Six fire appliances and 35 firefighters were present during the bonfire, dousing the closest houses with water.

More bonfires were lit at midnight last night, including a giant one at Mount Vernon in north Belfast.

Last night, Sinn Fein's Michelle Gildernew said she was disgusted after an effigy of her was placed on a bonfire at Moygashel beside a sign reading: "Public hanging, 10.30pm."

The former Fermanagh MP asked: "When are we going to see some courageous leadership from political unionism and the Orange Order when it comes to this hate-filled practice of burning of effigies, flags and election posters on bonfires? These are hate crimes and should be rigorously investigated as such by the PSNI."

Sinn Fein critic Mairia Cahill slammed the effigy, asking: "How does this help the loyalist culture argument?"

Belfast Telegraph


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