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‘Incredulous UDA threat meant bonfire facilitated,’ says Michelle O’Neill over report terror group moved weapons into Tigers Bay

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Tigers Bay bonfire

Tigers Bay bonfire

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Tigers Bay bonfire

Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has described as “incredulous” a report that the UDA moved weapons into Tigers Bay in a bid to prevent its bonfire being removed.

She also defended a failed legal bid to force the PSNI to assist in removing the contentious pyre.

“I just think it is absolutely incredulous that the UDA threats mean that this bonfire is facilitated. For this weekend that is incoming, I hope it is a peaceful weekend, I hope it is a calm weekend,” she told the BBC Sunday Politics show.

The deputy First Minister also said it was “absolutely right” that the SDLP’s Nichola Mallon and Sinn Fein’s Deirdre Hargey took the proceedings, as she urged nationalists in interface areas to “stay home” and not get involved in any street disorder that may break over the coming days.

Michelle O’Neill also described her visit to a Royal British Legion Somme commemoration event in Dublin on Saturday as a demonstration of her “commitment to our shared history”.

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On Thursday, Nichola Mallon and Deirdre Hargey took proceedings against the 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.

The bonfire has been the source of escalating tensions amid claims from residents in the nearby nationalist New Lodge that it has been built too close to the sensitive community interface.

Following the court decisions on Friday, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland has been working with a range of partners and stakeholders over a number of months to ensure a peaceful summer, and that will continue over the next number of days.

“We would urge those within local communities to remain calm during the coming days.”

Northern Ireland bonfires 2021 [Photos] Close

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)

/

Craigyhill bonfire in Larne. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

The MLA said the outcome was “disappointing” and added she was concerned over the impact on local residents in the predominantly nationalist New Lodge area.

“Bonfires are illegal... they were trespassing on government owned land so the ministers have a duty to uphold the law,” she told the BBC.

“Everybody is entitled to celebrate their culture but the particular bonfire in question is on an interface area that draws to itself all the heightened tension. I have met with residents in the area they feel under siege. That is not acceptable in this day and age.”

Ms O’Neill was also asked about reports in The Sunday Times that the UDA in north Belfast was preparing “an armed threat” to police and council contractors if the Adam Street bonfire was removed.

According to the paper, a UDA unit is suspected of moving weapons into the north inner-city loyalist area last week.

Earlier this week the Belfast Telegraph reported of police intelligence suggesting firearms could be used.

A security source told The Sunday Times: “The guns were coming out to be fired either in the air or near the contractors to keep them at a distance from the bonfire.

“Then youths were primed to launch petrol bombs onto the wood and set it on fire. That was their plan if the PSNI had been forced to escort the contract workers into Adam Street.”

The deputy First Minister said the UDA should “leave the stage”.

In response to the report, a PSNI spokesperson said they do not comment on specific intelligence matters.

Meanwhile, the deputy First Minister said her participation in a wreath laying ceremony in Dublin to commemorate the Battle of the Somme was a way to demonstrate her “commitment to parity of esteem”.

It is the first time the Sinn Fein politician has attended a Royal British Legion wreath-laying ceremony.

She laid the wreath commemorating the 105-year anniversary alongside First Minister Paul Givan at the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge.

"Clearly I will always have that wee bit of apprehension in my head [about attending] but I was very clear in speaking to the Legion,they were working very hard... to make the event as inclusive as possible,” she said.

"Whilst I might not agree with wars, I do think it is important we recognise that the battle of the Somme had a profound effect on so many people.

“I think over the years more and more, we need to find ways to reach out, to step outside of our own comfort zones.I did it because I want to demonstrate my commitment to inclusiveness...I hope that is how it is received in the unionist community.”


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