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Twelfth bonfire banners 'sectarian and offensive' - Foster

The DUP leader said those involved ‘really need to take a look at themselves’.

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A bonfire is lit on Belfast’s Lower Newtownards Road (Niall Carson/PA)

A bonfire is lit on Belfast’s Lower Newtownards Road (Niall Carson/PA)

A bonfire is lit on Belfast’s Lower Newtownards Road (Niall Carson/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster has criticised people who placed "sectarian and offensive messages" on top of some Eleventh Night bonfires.

It comes as Sinn Fein MP Paul maskey said he has filed a complaint to the police about a "vile banner" targeting senior republican Bobby Storey, who died last month.

Mrs Foster said she regretted that some people did not follow advice from the Orange Order to stay at home for the annual July 12 celebrations.

She also condemned the violent scenes in north Belfast and repeated calls for the Twelfth to be celebrated "at home".

Arlene Foster told BBC NI's Sunday Politics that those involved should question "what sort of a Northern Ireland do they want to live in?"

“They really need to take a look at themselves... do they want to live in a Northern Ireland where everyone is entitled to proudly celebrate their culture and identity, or do they want to live in a split Northern Ireland?” she said.

“I know certainly the one in which I want to live in, it’s one where we can all proudly celebrate but do so in a way that is not offensive and certainly not sectarian.”

A number of bonfires used banners which made reference to the late Mr Storey, which Paul Maskey described as "a series of blatant and unacceptable displays of sectarian hatred on bonfires yet again".

“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Storey family who are grieving the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and brother, are having their hurt compounded by sectarian thugs," he said.

“I am reiterating my call for all parties to unite in condemnation of this particularly vile kind of hate crime and call for an immediate end to these sickening displays.”

Fewer Twelfth of July events took place across Northern Ireland this year amid coronavirus restrictions.

However, there were significant crowds at several fires that did go ahead.

Ahead of the Eleventh Night fires, politicians and community leaders had urged people to avoid mass gatherings and stick to Covid-19 regulations that limit outdoor gatherings to no more than 30 people.

Crowds well in excess of 30 were witnessed at a number of fires that were lit late on Saturday night.

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A young boy plays drums by a bonfire in Belfast’s Shankill Road (Niall Carson/PA)

A young boy plays drums by a bonfire in Belfast’s Shankill Road (Niall Carson/PA)

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A young boy plays drums by a bonfire in Belfast’s Shankill Road (Niall Carson/PA)

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said crews responded to 24 bonfire-related incidents between 6pm on Saturday and 1am on Sunday – a 29.5% decrease compared with 2019.

The spokesman added that no attacks on personnel or appliances were reported.

Belfast Telegraph