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PSNI should help remove Tigers Bay bonfire, says Michelle O’Neill

UUP’s Doug Beattie visited pyre

The deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the PSNI should help remove a contentious bonfire in north Belfast.

Michelle O’Neill said the bonfire at Adam Street in Tigers Bay should be removed and accused the PSNI of being “more interested in facilitating the bonfire and the trouble”.

Ms O’Neill said DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson should encourage people to “try and get people to remove these bonfires”.

Her comments come as Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie visited the bonfire on Friday, followed by the TUV leader Jim Allister.

The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Sinn Fein and the SDLP should dial down their “anti-loyalist rhetoric” and condemned attempts to remove the bonfire through a judicial review.

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The row about the bonfire – which sits at an interface between the loyalist estate and the republican New Lodge - comes as Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey started legal action to force the PSNI to help remove the pyre.

Michelle O’Neill said government ministers “shouldn’t have to take the PSNI to court to do their job”.

She told reporters in north Belfast: “I've been with residents this week, residents whose homes have been attacked, whose windows have been smashed by masonry being fired at their homes.

“The PSNI should move in to remove the bonfire. Bonfires are not a celebration of culture and they should not be put into an interface area which heightens tension and causes bother.

"The PSNI seem to be more interested in facilitating the bonfire and the trouble as opposed to going in and doing their job and removing it. This is about law and order and these people are in breach of law and the PSNI should go in and do their job."

The deputy First Minister said DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson should convince “people to remove these bonfires”.

Mr Donaldson described legal action around the bonfire as “an unfortunate use of Ministerial Office”.

“Such a use of public resources should be a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive to consider,” he said.

“I have discussed this with my Ministerial team. As a result, the DAERA Minister has now written to his Executive colleagues reminding Ministers Mallon and Hargey of their legal duties under the Ministerial Code.

“Such controversial, significant or cross-cutting matters should be considered by the Northern Ireland Executive rather than individual Ministers.

“It is deeply unfortunate when we are in the middle of a economic and health crisis that the focus of Sinn Fein and SDLP Minister is on a bonfire in North Belfast.

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Press Eye - Tigers Bay- Belfast - 9th July 2021 Jim Allister visits the Tigers Bay bonfire site in Belfast.

Press Eye - Tigers Bay- Belfast - 9th July 2021 Jim Allister visits the Tigers Bay bonfire site in Belfast.

Press Eye - Tigers Bay- Belfast - 9th July 2021 Jim Allister visits the Tigers Bay bonfire site in Belfast.

“It is high time SF and the SDLP dialled down their anti-loyalist rhetoric, displayed some level of tolerance and focused on the real challenges in their Departments such as the flaws of welfare supports with Capita and tens of thousands waiting on a driving test.”

During a visit to the Tigers Bay bonfire, UUP leader Doug Beattie said the pyre was a “non offensive expression of unionist identity and culture”.

“I would appeal to all political parties to lower the tensions around this particular bonfire for the sake of the community,” he added.

“I’d particularly ask Sinn Fein to lower the heat and stop agitating for political reasons. A tinder dry Northern Ireland needs cool and calm thinking and not a political spark to promote further community division.”

The TUV leader Jim Allister said the issue was a “manufactured grievance”.

“There should be no question of this bonfire being moved. It is very small scale. It is not on an interface. It’s within a walled area which is exclusively Loyalist.

“The police have quite rightly said that there is no operational reason for them to interfere and yet Sinn Fein and the SDLP are squandering public money by running to court to try and take down a couple of hundred pallets.”

A spokesperson for the PSNI said it would not be able to comment due to the ongoing Judicial Review proceedings.


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