Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist bonfire torched early after judge ordered reduction in size

The bonfire in east Belfast was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday.

A controversial loyalist bonfire that a High Court judge had ordered to be reduced in size has been torched prematurely.

The huge pyre in east Belfast was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday.

The Bloomfield Walkway bonfire was one of hundreds across Northern Ireland due to be burned late on Wednesday night as part of the annual Battle of the Boyne commemorations.

But it was ignited almost 24 hours early amid a tense stand-off between police and loyalist youths.

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Police activity in east Belfast after a controversial loyalist bonfire that a High Court judge had ordered to be reduced in size was torched prematurely (Rebecca Black/PA)

More than 100 police in riot gear were on site overnight.

The episode unfolded after the judge’s decision at Belfast High Court on Tuesday evening.

The bonfire has caused controversy in recent years due to its proximity to houses.

On Tuesday morning, Belfast City Council urged the bonfire builders to remove excess material, saying it had been measured and it was too tall.

The council applied to Belfast High Court for an injunction to force the Department for Infrastructure, which owns the land the bonfire is built on, to reduce the height of the pyre.

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Bonfires will be lit to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne (Niall Carson/PA)

Mrs Justice Keegan directed the department to take immediate steps amid claims the controversial 80 pallet-high construction poses a serious threat to surrounding homes.

In 2015 more than 50 homes close to the Walkway bonfire were boarded up to protect them from the heat generated when it was lit.

The site of the bonfire had been moved in the last two years amid community concern about its proximity to houses.

At around 10am, contractors moved in to remove wood from the bonfire site. There was a heavy police presence during the operation.

The larger pyre continued to burn after being lit at around 5.30am.

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