Landmark case over Eleventh Night bonfire to go before courts in Belfast

Landmark case over Eleventh Night bonfire to go before courts in Belfast

A LANDMARK case involving a loyalist bonfire alleged to have carried sectarian, racist and homophobic items is being brought before the courts in Belfast.

A man has been summoned to appear in court.

A Public Prosecution Service spokesperson confirmed to The Irish Post: “The PPS can confirm it received a file from the PSNI in relation to allegations connected to activity at a bonfire in Antrim on 11th July 2014.

"That file was received last month and remains under active consideration.”

The Ballycraigy area where the bonfire was lit is a staunchly loyalist stronghold in Co. Antrim, some 10 miles north of Belfast.

Items placed on the fire included an effigy of a hanged Gerry Adams, a rainbow flag representing the gay community and numerous Tricolours.

A racist slur is also alleged to have been written across bedsteads positioned at the base of the pyre.

This is believed to be the focus of the prosecution case.

The case, which is listed for September, is believed to be the first time a prosecution has been brought before the court with regards offensive material displayed on a bonfire.

A further dimension has been added to the case with revelations by the Belfast newspaper The Irish News that PSNI officers urged a council to fund the pyre.

Bonfire groups in the Antrim area can apply for council funding of up to £3,000 for related events.

Payments are approved by a committee that includes councillors, community representatives and PSNI officers.

According to The Irish News the committee minutes show funding was given after police were “urging council support” last year to approve payments for Ballycraigy.

The phenomenon of Eleventh Night bonfires has raised many concerns over the last few years.

Aside from the sectarian dimension, pollution is a major worry - with thousands of tyres and other pollutants burnt every July.

As one comment to The Irish News put it: “This is the reason that Antrim and Newtownabbey Council can’t bring prosecutions when ordinary households burn coal and other smoky materials.”