12 July 2007 Edition
Bonfire fears : Loyalist intimidation alleged
Health and environmentalfears mount over massive Antrim bonfire
As An Phoblacht goes to press, fears are growing that serious health and environmental damage could be caused when a massive Orange Twelfth of July bonfire in Antrim is lit on Wednesday, 11 July.
Bonfires are lit by supporters of the Orange Order and loyalists in many parts of the North every year on the night of 11 July to begin celebrations of victory of Willaim of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 which is officially commemorated on the 12th.
It has been alleged that intimidation is preventing the removal of the huge bonfire at Ballycraigy housing estate which has been constructed with thousands of tyres.
Some Ballycraigy residents have expressed fears that property close to the bonfire, which is built on land owned by the North’s Housing Executive, would be damaged when it was lit during the loyalist celebration of Eleventh night.
A resident who did not want to be named told the Belfast Telegraph this week that locals are worried about the environmental damage the burning of tyres – which is illegal – will have on the local community. The resident said they had contacted the council about their concerns, but nothing has been done.
“I want to know why no one can stop this, why can’t they be done for illegal tipping? People are obviously scared to speak out”, the resident said.
Sinn Féin MLA Paul Butler has said that unionists must do more to discourage Eleventh night bonfires adding that every year there is a deafening silence from unionists about bonfires and the damage they are causing.
“Over £1 million of taxpayer’s money is spent in relation to bonfires every year in emergency call-outs and damage to public property. Yet year in year out both the DUP and UUP turn a blind eye to the wanton destruction theses bonfires cause. This is totally unacceptable”, said Paul Butler.
“I want to see unionists taking a lead on this in their own communities and point those who are involved in bonfires to celebrating the eleventh night with beacons and firework displays in conjunction with cultural and community events.
Meanwhile Newry/Armagh Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy commenting after reports of attacks on Carnagh Orange hall and Mallantur Orange hall in Armagh has said that there can be no justification for attacks on Orange Halls, and he has called for them to end.
“Attacks on people because of their religion or attacks on property because of their religion are wrong and should stop.
There can be no justification for this sort of behaviour. It is unacceptable and must end. Those responsible need to reflect long and hard upon their actions and ensure that this sort of sectarian behaviour is ended” said the Sinn Féin MP.