Burning of effigies ‘warped’

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has warned that the burning effigies of politicians on bonfires is a “warped interpretation of culture”.

The Foyle MLA said his party stands ready to enter into talks with loyalists around the issue.

Mr Eastwood was speaking after the burning of an effigy of Martin McGuinness in a mock coffin in East Belfast on Tuesday was widely condemned.

Posters and images of other politicians were also set alight at different bonfires across the north during the Eleventh Night.

Speaking after police said the subsequent 12th of July events were the most peaceful in years,Mr Eastwood commented: “I am pleased that the Twelfth of July has passed off peacefully and hopefully this marks a turning point in our society.

“In particular, I want to commend the work of our fire service who have been on hand, ensuring that bonfires were managed and contained.

“It’s important, however, to be honest. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that the burning of effigies and images of politicians represents any culture. It does not.

“Many loyalists will, rightly, denounce these actions. We must listen to them.

“The SDLP is ready and willing to engage in an honest conversation with loyalism.

“We must challenge this warped interpretation of culture.”

Commenting on the events over the 12th, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “We have dealt with a number of minor incidents throughout the day and have made a small number of arrests but these were very much in the margins of what has been widely described as the most peaceful Twelfth of July for some years and a model for years to come.

“It has been a busy day for police officers who were out and about keeping people safe and I would like to place on record my appreciation of the work they have done and acknowledge the hard work of our partners and those within local communities who have contributed to making this a day people were able to enjoy.”

On The Eleventh, Fire & Rescue Service crews across Northern Ireland responded to 40 bonfire related incidents - a 21 per cent increase on 2016. “We maintained our normal service delivery throughout the evening attending a range of operational incidents including property fires and other types of emergency incidents,” a spokesperson said.