PSNI praise for bonfire progress

Bonfire at Killicomaine.
Bonfire at Killicomaine.

Organisers of local bonfires have been praised by police for holding respectful and safe events across the district.

PSNI Craigavon took to Facebook to commend bonfire builders for working directly with them and members of the Fire Service.

They said: “For months, our neighbourhood teams and sector Inspectors have worked with the bonfire building community to create an environment across our patch for events that are both safe and respectful. When you look at Craigavon of even a few years ago compared to the displays we saw this year, they are barely recognisable as being the same place. Is there still work to do? Undoubtedly.”

However, whilst local representatives have welcomed progress, some have said that there is still a long way to go to address all issues.

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said: “There has been certainly improvements made, I don’t think we would deny that. I would welcome that there are no posters of nationalist party representatives on the bonfire.

“However I do know that on one bonfire at least there were Irish tricolours. Still to me, the burning of a flag of a neighbouring sovereign state should not be acceptable.

“The platforms that sometimes bonfires are for blatant sectarianism, if that is to be reduced then that is to be welcomed.

“There is some way to go, in addressing the concerns of people within the nationalist community, the burning of the tricolour being one issue.

“Also listen to the concerns from people within their own community whose homes are impacted by the heat of the bonfire.”

Whilst UUP MLA Doug Beattie told the Portadown Times there is work to be done, “The anti-social behaviour has been reduced, but the burning of flags on certain bonfires remains an issue.

The number of tyres burnt on bonfires has been reduced considerably. We have an awful long way to go in regards to bonfires with regards location and what’s being burned.

“The police have a difficult task in regards to that but I think that people are trying to go in the right direction, I just don’t think that we are there yet.”

Police added: “Several of our local bonfires working directly with ourselves and our NIFRS colleagues ensuring that the sites were safer than they have been for some years.

“On the one occasion something nearly went badly wrong, the fire service were on hand, as ever, to do a sterling job in ensuring everyone’s safety.

“At least 2 of our local bonfires removing emblems and posters that had been added to their bonfires against the wish of the community.

“As a direct result of that there were no election posters or abusive sectarian slogans on any of our local bonfires.

“Yes, there had been stuff displayed that we didn’t like to see, however we weren’t alone in that and responsible leaders within those communities removed it on two different sites before being lit.”