THE burning of Edenderry bonfire in the early hours of Monday morning has taken a sinister turn with claims that the two men allegedly responsible for the arson attack have been forced to flee the country.
One of the men left Portadown early in the week after his photograph and name were circulated on Facebook, along with veiled threats including references to where he lived and his daily routine.
The second man’s identity has not been publicly revealed, but he is believed to be in fear of his safety and was set to leave Portadown yesterday (Thursday).
It is believed that the men, from a nationalist area of Portadown, were high on drink and drugs when they allegedly set fire to the bonfire at Watson Street. The man who has been named on Facebook is also said to have posted a message on the site after the incident, containing the words ‘Burn, baby burn’.
In another worrying turn of events, the man’s brother was also allegedly stopped by men in three cars but managed to convince them he was not the person they were looking for.
A community representative from the nationalist area said, “The targeting of the bonfire has to be utterly condemned. The annual bonfire is part of that community’s customs and traditions and should be tolerated and respected.
“No-one has the right to do what was done.”
The Edenderry bonfire is traditionally lit on July 1 (with the exception of Sundays) to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and the organisers have said it will go ahead on Monday as usual.
One organiser, who spoke to the Portadown Times, said they already have a substantial amount of wood and palates gathered for the traditional fire Mark Two.
“The effigy of Lundy is complete and we will spend the next few days getting more wood and palates, and the bonfire will go ahead as planned.
“The Edenderry fire - which used to be in the main square - has been an annual event as long as anyone can remember and this isn’t going to break that tradition,” explained the organiser.
It is thought that the fire started at around 4.30 on Monday morning. Continued the man, “A security guard at the Asda site told us there was no sign of flames at 4.15, but soon afterwards, he saw the smoke and then the flames, and it was still raging five hours later.”
He added they had made an appeal for more wood on Facebook and Twitter and they were confident plenty of materials would be gathered by Monday night “for a fire bigger and better than ever”.
With most bonfires on the Eleventh Night, the Edenderry one has always been on July 1 - Sundays excepted - to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
In former days, the Lundy effigy was made by local upholsterer the late William Woods and nowadays by the Hoy family. “It’ll be bonfire as usual,” added the organiser.
A police spokesperson said they received a report of a fire at the bonfire site shortly after 4.30am on Monday morning and that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Anyone who witnessed the incident or who has any information is asked to contact police on 0845 600 8000. Information can also be passed anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.