Sinn Fein councillor says ‘big police presence’ needed at Eleventh night bonfires

Ireland flags and Sinn Fein election posters on Cookstown bonfire
Ireland flags and Sinn Fein election posters on Cookstown bonfire

A Sinn Fein councillor whose 2013 electoral poster has appeared on a Cookstown bonfire has condemned those behind it.

Councillor John McNamee said the image came from the election two years ago, so had obviously been “deliberately kept back to be put on the fire”.

Tip of the Monrush bonfire

Tip of the Monrush bonfire

“It’s intimidating when there’s a poster there of myself,” he told the Mid Ulster Mail.

“It sends a message that some people are not prepared to move on. I condemn this sort of behaviour.

“It seems to be something that people want to do every year – putting up photos of anything Irish or Nationalist. I’ve had a number of calls from people in that area, saying they’re disgusted and intimidated by it.”

The bonfire in question is located at Stewart Avenue in the town, and has a number of Sinn Fein flags and posters ready to burn on the Eleventh night.

Pictures were posted on social media of the finished bonfire - which has its own Facebook page - on Saturday.

At the front of the effigy is a large Sinn Fein poster, while the top and middle sections are adorned with Sinn Fein flags and the poster of Cllr McNamee.

“I will be ensuring that the police have a big presence there this evening,” he said ahead of the Eleventh night bonfire.

Another poster displayed at the pinnacle of the pyre reads: “Unfinished revolution... unfinished business,’ with details of a march which took place in Coalisland on Easter Sunday this year.

The parade, organised independently of Sinn Fein by the National Republican Commemoration Committee, was called ‘Unfinished Revolution’ and saw around 3-4,000 people march from Clonoe Chapel to Coalisland town centre.

The event commemorated the Easter Rising of 1916, which celebrated its centenary this year. But concerns were raised when around 60 men and women dressed in combat gear led the parade, and a police investigation was later launched.

Council concern for safety of staff over tyres

Both the Stewart Avenue bonfire and another at Monrush in Cookstown have also been built mostly with large black tyres, rather than wooden pallets.

At Monrush, the bonfire has 12 tiers of tyres - around 200 or so - supported by pallets at its base, with a middle section of pallets and then more tyres piled on top.

Despite the fact they release toxic fumes when burned and pose a public health hazard, tyres remain a staple of the Northern Irish bonfire for many.

“It’s illegal to burn tyres, because of the toxins that come with that,” said Cllr McNamee. “For people living around that area, the air quality for days and weeks will be toxic.

“Unfortunately these people don’t seem to listen to anybody. They need to be getting the message from their local representatives that burning tyres isn’t good for anybody.”

A spokesperson from Mid Ulster Council added: “The council recognises the dangers which bonfires may pose and the negative environmental impact, particularly where tyres and other inappropriate materials are used.

“When we are aware of the presence of tyres on a bonfire, we have reported the issue to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. While we continue to work with our partner agencies, such as the PSNI, the NI Fire and Rescue Service and the Environment Agency, and with local communities to address issues which arise with bonfires on Council property, the safety of our staff will always be paramount.

“If a member of the public has any concern regarding a bonfire close to their property they should immediately contact their local Police and NI Fire and Rescue Service and ask for assistance.”