Miracle no one killed, says councillor.
A Portadown councillor has said it was a “miracle” no one was killed in a bonfire collapse in the Co Armagh town.
However, a unionist representative said it was those in attendance who took an unnecessary risk by being too close to the fire as he commended organisers for their efforts in keeping people safe.
As July 11 falls on a Sunday this year, bonfires are being lit at different times over the weekend.
Some areas had a bonfire on Friday, while others will have it one minute before midnight on Saturday.
The Fire Service and police attended the Portadown fire at Edgarstown, however, there have been no reports of any incident or injury.
The huge structure did, however, collapse.
Posts on social media showed the pyre lean to one side before collapsing. Scores of people including young children scream as they flee the area as the bonfire plummets toward the ground before landing close to parked cars and a road.
People can he heard saying how “scary” it was and how they feared it would land on them.
In another clip cars can be seen attempting to drive away among the crowd as the structure topples.
Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Duffy said it was a miracle no one was killed or seriously injured after the bonfire’s collapse onto the main road.
“Imagery on a bonfire collapsing in Portadown last night is deeply concerning,” he said.
“Nearby residents, drivers and homes were placed in serious danger as this bonfire came crashing down on to a main road. It’s a miracle that no one was killed.
“It’s long past time the PSNI, Housing Executive and other agencies took their responsibilities seriously and act to remove these dangerous bonfires before someone is killed.”
Independent unionist councillor Darryn Causby was at the bonfire and witnessed its collapse. He said organisers attempted to clear the area and had informed people not to park in certain places.
He commended organisers for their efforts in trying to keep people safe.
"People took an unnecessary risk, they needed to be more careful,” he said.
The former DUP man said he did not need to run when the pyre collapsed as he was standing at a safe distance. He said he had helped move cars which had parked too close “not as an organiser but as a concerned elected representative”.
“The evening felt like very much like a family-orientated night. It was peaceful, jovial and the fire was preceded by a community fun day and hundreds attended. Thousands were at the fire.
"There are attempts by Sinn Fein to dial up the rhetoric.. and in an election year people can see through it. We will take no lectures from Sinn Fein and their links to he IRA and continued glorification to those involved in terrorism and murder.
"What I saw last night was bonfire builders telling people to stay clear and they chose not to do that. It is not the first time a bonfire has fallen.
"People have to be aware of the responsibility on their part to keep safe distance.”
Asked if placing items such as election posters or Irish flags on the bonfire played a role in heightening tensions, he said there were no election posters on the bonfire.
"In recent weeks there have been efforts in Portadown to keep tensions to a minimum.
"It would be my preference not to have these things on bonfires but it is a symptom of a bigger problem and has to be looked at in that context. Sinn Fein locally have been trying to ‘neutralise’ town centres by removing flags and bunting [in a council motion] and relations with the south are very poor with the protocol.
"Loyalists are frustrated, they fell angry, under attack and victimsed at every turn and there has to be a pressure value, not sure if that needs to be parade or flag, but there has to be a release.
"We are in a tinder box and people need to dial down the rhetoric or things could get very difficult.”
In a statement on its Facebook page, Loyalist Edgarstown Bonfire said it noted the “cry from those who wish to destroy our culture and our traditions”.
"We will never bow down to your demands and make no apology for ensuring the Boyne commemoration is continued in the tradition of lighting bonfires,” it added.
They also thanked those who supported the bonfire.
There has been controversy around a small number of bonfires this year.
On Friday a judge dismissed an attempt by Stormont ministers to force the police to provide cover for a contractor to remove a pyre in north Belfast close to an interface.
In Newtownards a fire station is to be covered with protective materials to protect it from the hear of a bonfire across the road.
And in Limavady a bonfire which was painted in the colours of the Irish flag was set alight early on Friday morning. Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald labelled it an “expression of hate”.
In a statement, the PSNI said: “Police received a number of reports on Friday July 9 regarding a bonfire in Limavady which had been painted green, white and gold.
"At around 7.35am this morning a police patrol found that the bonfire had been set alight.
“Enquiries into the matter are ongoing.”
Annual Twelfth parades have been scaled back for Monday. Instead of the large county parades, local marches are to be held with reduced numbers.
DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson met with representatives of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland at Schomberg House ahead of this year’s events.
He said: "The 12th July celebrations are not just important for the Orange Institution, but they represent one of the largest and most vibrant cultural celebrations in the UK or beyond. Whilst last year we celebrated the "12th at home", this year there will be a return to the parades and demonstrations many of us enjoy, albeit scaled back to reflect the ongoing restrictions and public health concerns.
"The Orange Institution is an integral part of the fabric of Northern Ireland and nowhere has that been more evident than during the Covid pandemic. The responsible leadership offered by Grand Lodge Officers was backed up by massive community outreach right across Northern Ireland.
"Such practical support offered by Districts and individual lodges was a lifeline to many elderly and vulnerable people.
“Those roots right to the heart of our community mean that members of the Orange Institution have felt the economic impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol as well as understanding the constitutional damage it brings. The Institution stands alongside every single unionist elected representative in Northern Ireland in opposition to the Protocol and the barriers to trade it has created. The Orange Institution represents part of civic society in Northern Ireland and the views it articulates should be heeded by our government."