Condemnation after two bonfires torched

Condemnation after two bonfires torched

10 July 2019

UNIONIST politicians have condemned arson attacks on Eleventh Night bonfires in Ballynahinch and Dundrum.

Ulster Unionist councillor Alan Lewis and the DUP’s Billy Walker say they are disappointed by the attacks, but are confident the bonfires will be rebuilt in time for the Eleventh Night celebrations on Thursday.

The Ballynahinch bonfire, in Lisburn Street car park,  was targeted in the early hours of last Thursday morning.

After receiving a call just after 5.45am, two crews from Ballynahinch fire station were sent to deal with the blaze.

A mechanical digger was sent by Newry, Mourne and Down Council to help dampen the fire and a fire engine from Carryduff fire station was also in attendance.

The fire service said they were treating the incident as a “deliberate ignition”.

Within hours of the attack bonfire organisers issued an appeal for pallets so that the bonfire can be built up again.

Cllr Walker said it was a deliberate attack and that those who set fire to the bonfire knew exactly what they were doing.

“I am totally outraged at what happened and must condemn the people responsible,” he remarked. “I have no doubt that this incident was a clear attempt to heighten tensions over the Twelfth period.

“Community relations in Ballynahinch have been great for some time and it is important that no one allows what happened last weekend to destroy them. I would appeal to anyone with information about who was responsible for setting fire to the bonfire to inform police.”

He added: “The unionist community in Ballynahinch has worked hard with all its neighbours to make the town a better place and to foster good community relations.

“What happened last week was disappointing and I hope those responsible for setting the bonfire alight will be apprehended by police.”

The attack on the bonfire in De Courcey Way, Dundrum, occurred in the early hours on Sunday morning.

Cllr Lewis said he was “extremely disappointed” and had this message for those who carried out the attack: “I ask those responsible, was it worth it? Are you so bitter, unintelligent and void of reasoning that you feel the need to skulk around with a petrol can in dead of night? Let’s hear your arguments, let’s hear your reasoning or do you prefer to keep the shadows?”

He said Dundrum bonfire had been in place for generations and that over this last number of years the community had worked with local council and other agencies to ensure a safe and enjoyable night for everyone.

“It is disappointing that there are those within society who seek to attack community cohesion and raise tension before the annual Eleventh celebrations.

 “Unfortunately there remains widespread misconceptions around Eleventh bonfires. Traditionally, they represent the bonfires which were lit on the hills to welcome King William when he landed at Carrickfergus.

“They are very much part and parcel of Orange cultural celebrations. They aren’t designed to intimidate or frighten anyone. We must continue to promote and educate those within society who fail to grasp our collective history.”

Cllr Lewis added: “I’ve no doubt that the community will rise above this disappointing setback and the bonfire will be restored before the Eleventh Night.”