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Stormont ministers take legal action to force PSNI to provide contractor cover for Tigers Bay bonfire removal

  • Builders warn of potential disorder and threat to life
  • Contractor on standby to act, if police can provide cover

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The contentious bonfire in north Belfast.

The contentious bonfire in north Belfast.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.

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The contentious bonfire in north Belfast.

Two Executive ministers are taking legal action against the PSNI in order to force it to help facilitate the removal of the controversial Tigers Bay bonfire in north Belfast.

The departments say Belfast City Council has a contractor on standby to move on the site and are seeking a judicial review of the PSNI’s reluctance to get involved.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey sent a solicitor’s letter to the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday, seeking a reply by 12pm on Friday due to the “time sensitive nature of the proposed challenge”.

Tigers Bay bonfire builders told Ms Mallon on Thursday evening that there is the potential for “serious and widespread disorder” and a threat to life should the pyre be removed against their will.

The claim was made in a document outlining the legal issues the group made to the North Belfast MLA.

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The pyre has been built at an interface between the loyalist estate and the republican New Lodge.

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The Tigers Bay bonfire. Pic: Pacemaker.

The Tigers Bay bonfire. Pic: Pacemaker.

The Tigers Bay bonfire. Pic: Pacemaker.

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

It is not the first time the courts have been asked to intervene on contentious bonfires.

In 2018, an "out of control" bonfire in east Belfast’s Bloomfield Walkway was ordered by the High Court to reduced its height by three metres.

A judge directed the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to take immediate steps amid claims the 80 pallet-high construction posed a serious threat to surrounding homes.

Within the letter to the courts from the Department for Communities (DfC) and DfI, who own the land and surrounding materials where the Tigers Bay bonfire has been built, it stated that the PSNI were first asked to help facilitate its removal on June 16.

They are seeking a judge to consider the matter.

Belfast City Council had provided the services of a contractor to access the site in order to dismantle the bonfire.

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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

In order to complete the work, the contractors required the assistance of the PSNI to remove any individuals around the bonfire.

“The form had been provided for and agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding which was agreed between the Departments, the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the PSNI,” the letter outlined.

“This Memorandum of Understanding was agreed between the parties following a similar judicial review challenge in July 2020 taken by the DfC against the PSNI in relation to a failure to provide support in dismantling the same bonfire.

“It was hoped that this Memorandum of Understanding would avoid situations such as the present from recurring.”

The DfC contacted the PSNI again on June 23, explaining that although there was community engagement taking place, police should continue to plan to remove the pyre.

On June 29, the DfC then told the PSNI that engagement efforts had failed to find a resolution and the DfI sent a form proposing the clearance of the bonfire.

Six days later, the DfC was advised that the matter would be determined at “gold command” level and on July 5, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said more information as necessary.

Both departments replied to this request but on July 7, the PSNI had taken the operational decision not to support contractors in removing the bonfire.

“The letter [from the PSNI] refers to the presence of individuals, including children at the bonfire and the potential resistance that it is anticipated will be met by the contractors and PSNI if the site is cleared,” the departments wrote to the courts.

“It is contended by ACC Todd that any move to dismantle the bonfire will likely lead to wider disorder.”

The departments claim that in refusing to act, the PSNI are acting in a manner “contrary to their general duty”.

“The PSNI is expected to facilitate the Belfast City Council contractors in securing access to the bonfire site and in removing individuals in and around the bonfire so that it may be dismantled by the contractors,” they added.


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