Loyalist sectarianism in the North of Ireland isn't dead

Anger has increased over the weekend at the failure of politicians and mainstream media to even condemn the bonfires, lit ahead of ‘the Twelfth’, the height of the marching season by the Protestant Orange Order.

An illegal loyalist bonfire burned through a sectarian interface into the nationalist New Lodge on Saturday, terrifying residents and provoking further clashes between nationalist youths and the PSNI police.

It was one of dozens of bonfires which were adorned with messages of sectarian hate before being set alight for the entertainment of drunk loyalist mobs.

One so-called ‘children’s bonfire’ in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey exposed kids to the murderous message ‘KAT’, meaning ‘Kill All Taigs’ (Catholics).

PSNI vehicles lined up along North Queen Street for the second day in a row as a sectarian loyalist band parade took place in the area in defiance of the rulings of the Parades Commission. The police were also clearly acting in defence of the illegal bonfire in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay along Duncairn Gardens, yards from the homes of nationalists.

Blocked out of their own area, the situation provoked rioting among local youths for a second night. New Lodge residents were then left defenceless as the bonfire ripped through fencing into their estate.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly called for calm in the New Lodge area, and described the loyalist bonfire as an act of intimidation.

He said: “The erection of this bonfire - for the first time in eight years - is clearly an orchestrated attempt to intimidate residents and damage long-standing community relations.

“We have met with multiple statutory agencies and community leaders from all sides of the community to warn them of the potential for escalation and to attempt to defuse this situation.”

Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said he had filed a complaint with the PSNI over the banners targeting Bobby Storey.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that the Storey family who are grieving the loss of a husband, father, grandfather and brother, are having their hurt compounded by sectarian thugs,” he said.

The North’s Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, called on unionist politicians to do more to confront what she described as “destructive and toxic” bonfires.

“Sectarianism has absolutely no place in our society and must be rooted out,” she added.