Political recrimination over bonfire continues

A large bonfire constructed mainly of pallets at the bottom of the Lecky Road flyover in Derry. Photo; George Sweeney
A large bonfire constructed mainly of pallets at the bottom of the Lecky Road flyover in Derry. Photo; George Sweeney

The political fallout over last night’s bonfire in the heart of the Bogside has continued in Derry this morning.

A statement released earlier by Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney placed the blame for last night’s security alert at the feet of dissident republican elements whom he claimed had ‘exploited’ young people in the Bogside area.

The Foyle MLA said: “The damage, disturbances and disruption, which arose from last night’s bonfire in the Bogside must be condemned.

“Several families, including elderly people, had to be evacuated from their homes due to a security alert on Charlotte Street.

“This situation was dictated by a tiny group of young people who are being exploited by more sinister elements who are clearly determined to act against the wishes of the local community.

“The scenes around the bonfire were in stark contrast with the excellent finale to this year’s Féile which showed the positive community spirit of the people in this area who want nothing to do with the bonfire.

“There was an opportunity to avoid all of these problems through dialogue. Unfortunately that failed because people absented themselves from that process or effectively scuppered it by acting as cheerleaders for anti-community behaviour.

“That process was an opportunity lost and we need to see renewed efforts to avoid a repeat of this situation in the future so the local residents can live in peace.”

However, Independent Councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council Gary Donnelly said that young people in the area have been left behind.

“People need to sit around the table and have dialogue, there seems to be a complete disconnect with young people in that area. All week they have been bombarded by a relentless demonization and criminalisation policy by some elected representatives,” he said.

Meanwhile SDLP Councillor John Boyle said a collective approach to resolving the difficulties could provide a way forward.

He said: “Consultations were carried out in the Bogside which showed that 85% of the community living there do not want bonfires.

“Those responsible for siting this bonfire on a main arterial route through the Bogside must reflect upon the fact that they are inconveniencing their own friends and neighbours and in some incidences, forcing older and vulnerable people from their homes.

“It is incumbent on all agencies, elected representatives and local people to redouble our efforts to find a solution to what is becoming an increasingly intractable situation.

“The SDLP are totally opposed to these kind of bonfires anywhere in the North. They are negative, divisive and disruptive, and there are alternatives in place in Derry which have been very successful. A number of community festivals were held throughout the city this week giving thousands of people the chance to enjoy inclusive family entertainment.”