Queen’s 90th birthday bonfire branded ‘act of triumphalism’

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh ride in an open-topped Range Rover close to Windsor Castle in Berkshire as she celebrated her 90th birthday last Thursday. (John Stillwell/PA Wire)
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh ride in an open-topped Range Rover close to Windsor Castle in Berkshire as she celebrated her 90th birthday last Thursday. (John Stillwell/PA Wire)

A local Councillor has branded a bonfire erected beside an official beacon to celebrate the Queen’s recent 90th birthday “an act of triumphalism”.

The beacon was one of two purchased for the Derry and Strabane areas at a cost of £600 and used in the official celebrations on Thursday, April 21.

Independent Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Paul Gallagher.

Independent Derry City & Strabane District Councillor Paul Gallagher.

Councillors had previously been told that the beacons at Ebrington Square in Derry and at Knackavoe Hill in Strabane would consist of a controlled small beacon lit by gas, which would burn for around 30 minutes, as part of the wider celebrations across the UK.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher however said however that as well as the beacon in Strabane, a large bonfire was erected and set alight next to it.

“It was an act of triumphalism over the people of Strabane. The beacon was only a ruse,” Colr. Gallagher claimed at Thursday’s Full Council meeting in the Guildhall.

Colr. Gallagher called on the Council and some nationalists in the council to explain to the people of Strabane “how they facilitated this event”.

He also alluded to a presentation by a number of bodies several weeks ago about bonfires, during which it was detailed how an operation was developed to go into Galliagh in Derry and removed bonfire materials there before ignition.

He said that no such move was made by council or anyone else to remove the materials at the Strabane bonfire.

“We were informed in this chamber by the DUP that this beacon would last half an hour and wouldn’t be a bother but in fact there was a major, major bonfire that was built beside it and went on for hours.

“From all parts of Strabane wherever you looked you could see it. I think we have questions to ask,” he added.

DUP Councillor Thomas Kerrigan, who lit the beacon in his official capacity as Deputy Mayor of Derry & Strabane, said the beacon celebration had been conducted in a dignified manner.

Colr. Kerrigan also accused Colr. Gallagher of “rambling on and on about a very special occasion”.

DUP Councillor Maurice Devenney said the council had carried out its role and was not involved in the building or the burning of the bonfire,

He also concurred that the Deputy Mayor had carried out his civic duties at the beacon ceremony.

Colr. Devenney also asked whether Colr. Gallagher would condemn a previously staged bonfire next to the City Walls on which poppy wreaths were burned.

Mayor Elisha McCallion said the Council would look into the incident in Strabane and engage in “a bit of fact-finding”.

She also said that council officers would bring a report back to the relevant council committee.