Both sides of the community want to move beyond the annual bickering over bonfires, said a Belfast politician whose election posters were burned.
SDLP Council Member Paul Doherty spoke after police statistics showed 57 campfire-related offenses were reported in the July 11-12 period.
Most of the offenses involved tricolors, political election posters and hate speech placed on the bonfires.
The sites spanned Counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Londonderry and Tyrone.
Mr Doherty’s election posters were placed on a bonfire in Glencairn Way, Belfast on the eleventh night.
The west Belfast representative, who has set up a food bank in the area, said that while the figures were “disheartening” he had received positive news since he was targeted.
“It is very disheartening to see the wide range of possible crimes that have been committed at beacons across the North,” he said.
“It is clear that improved regulation and a concerted effort is needed to end criminal behavior near these campfires.
“While police are investigating 57 reports, it’s important to remember that hundreds of bonfires took place… the vast majority of which passed peacefully.
“The actions of those behind these sectarian hate incidents do not speak for the majority of those present and many people are rightly appalled by what they have witnessed.”
Mr Doherty added that he frequently visited the region where his poster was burned and frequently “came into the homes of people from both the union and nationalist communities”.
“I don’t just drop off a food parcel and run, I stand there and talk to people and try to see what else I could do to help them,” he added.
“As a result of what happened, people called me the next day… They were equally shocked.
“I had an Orange Order man who lived not far from where we work in Andersonstown. He said: “This is not in our name; that’s not who we are or what we’re about.’
“We had a good conversation about how we need to move away from that, so I was happy that positive conversations came out of it and people were saying they didn’t agree with what they saw on those campfires and that we’re moving forward have to.”
A bonfire on Glenfield Walk in Carrickfergus has been included in police statistics – obtained by amanda.ie, journalist Amanda Ferguson’s website – due to ‘RIP’ news and reports of election posters placed on it.
What the numbers don’t mention are reports of hanging effigy of Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill and Alliance leader Naomi Long placed on a campfire.
Ms Long tweeted that she had been sent photos of the bonfire with the effigy.
She wrote: “These photos made me physically nauseous. Not only in the images, but also in the simmering hatred and sectarianism they depict; Hatred that not only persists in our community but is passed on to the next generation quite normally.”
Alliance MLA Patricia O’Lynn said: “Everyone has the right to celebrate their culture, but it must be done in a safe and respectful way. Attaching images, posters. Flags, tires and other similar things on a campfire are clearly not.”
She has urged campfire builders to get involved in community council programs and work to make their celebrations “non-sectarian and more inclusive.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/almost-60-offences-linked-to-twelfth-of-july-bonfires-police-stats-reveal-41888618.html Almost 60 offences linked to Twelfth of July bonfires, police stats reveal