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Hundreds of bonfires to be lit in loyalist areas of Northern Ireland

By PA News

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Hundreds of bonfires are set to be lit across Northern Ireland later.

The pyres, ranging from towering structures to beacons, sited at an estimated 300 locations, will mainly be lit on Thursday night, however some were lit on Wednesday.

The bonfires are an annual tradition in loyalist neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland every year ahead of Orange Order parades on July 12.

An effigy of Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill on the Eastvale Avenue bonfire in Dungannon in 2023 (Liam McBurney/PA)
An effigy of Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill on the Eastvale Avenue bonfire in Dungannon in 2023 (Liam McBurney/PA)

One of the tallest bonfires in recent years has been at Craigyhill in Larne, which reportedly reached 62 metres in 2022.

Most bonfires pass off without incident, but several continue to be the source of controversy.

Last year, there was condemnation after an image of Sinn Fein vice president and now First Minister Michelle O’Neill appeared on a bonfire in Co Tyrone along with Irish flags.

In 2023 police received 68 reported incidents, including 21 alleged hate crimes involving the burning of election posters or effigies, and 47 alleged hate-related incidents, including the burning of flags.

The fires are traditionally ignited on the eve of July 12 – before thousands of members of the Orange Order and accompanying marching bands take to the streets at 18 locations across Northern Ireland to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

The battle at the Boyne river, north of Dublin, saw King William of Orange defeat Catholic King James II to secure a Protestant line of succession to the British crown.

July 11-12 are among the busiest days of the year for the Police Service of Northern Ireland who are expecting to deploy 4,000 officers and staff – around two thirds of the force – in a public safety operation.

The cost of the policing operation is expected to be around £4.5 million.

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