Police have confirmed that they are investigating CCTV footage and video evidence in order to bring forward prosecutions regarding the 15th August bonfire in the Bogside at the weekend.
Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan, the Derry City Area Commander, said: “Clearly the burning of material bonfires is offensive and distasteful, particularly when some of that material is potentially of a sectarian nature. I have asked our detectives to review all of the evidence we have from the bonfires over the weekend. We will see what that review turns up. If we come up with any offences we will prepare a file for the PPS.
“This sort of material has the potential to raise tensions in the community and I think the solution to these issues lies with the communities themselves. It is not a policing issue; we have a role to play but the communities have the solution to this.
“Their representatives must get together and prevent this happening. Hate crimes of this nature are taken very seriously. We would wish they did not happen. We will look at all the evidence. If we find offenders we will bring them before the courts.”
Responding to the comments, Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly accused the PSNI of “one-sided political policing”.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ he said, “There are over 500 bonfires across Northern Ireland every year and I know of no other bonfire where the police are pursuing charges,
“I fear that if the PSNI did press charges it could wipe out all of the work that has been going on in meetings within the community over the previous weeks.
“If a young person was taken to court over the bonfire than I would certainly be more than happy to take to the stand in their defence - and a number of other statutory bodies, including the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the Council, political representatives and community workers could all be called to take the stand, as they too were heavily involved in negotiations running up to the bonfire.”
Meanwhile, Derry City and Strabane District Council has said that the costs incurred to clean-up the bonfire site will run into several thousand pounds.
A spokesperson said, “Council staff and contractors were involved in removing debris and repairing damage caused at a number of bonfire sites across the city including the green space at the Bogside. Costs are being assessed at this stage as details including subcontractor and disposal costs have not yet been submitted.
“Council expect that the cost will run to several thousand pounds. The Council will continue to work in close co-operation with key statutory agencies and community groups to offer advice and assistance to communities on public safety matters relating to bonfires.”
The site has already been cleared and plans to re-plant the grassy area are in place for later this week.