Placing of poppy wreaths on bonfire condemned

The placing of poppy wreaths on a nationalist bonfire in Londonderry has been condemned.

Traditional August bonfires were lit in nationalist areas across Derry over the weekend.

The wreaths were placed on a fire built in Curryneirin on the Waterside of the city. The incident comes after wreaths were recently stolen from a nearby war memorial.

The Derry pyres are lit to mark the Catholic Feast of the Assumption.

Several of the fires continue to be a source of controversy within the city, with young bonfire builders criticised for anti-social behaviour and burning items and symbols associated with the unionist tradition.

On one of the biggest fires, in the Bogside, a picture of the Queen was attached to the structure before it was torched on Saturday night.

Union flags, Northern Ireland flags and a US and Israeli flag were also placed on the stacks of wooden pallets, as were flags of the Parachute Regiment – the regiment whose soldiers were responsible for the Bloody Sunday shootings in the city in 1972.

The placement of the poppy wreaths on the Curryneirin bonfire was condemned by DUP and Sinn Fein MLAs.

Ahead of the fire, DUP representative Gary Middleton tweeted: "This is disgraceful and utterly insulting to the war dead. There needs to be leadership shown in this community. Poppy wreaths were stolen from the war memorial in Londonderry recently. Those who place wreaths on bonfires clearly have a warped mindset."

On Sunday morning, Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson said: "The appearance of poppy wreaths on a bonfire in Curryneirin was wrong and must be condemned.

"Everyone has a right to remember their dead in a respectful and dignified manner and the theft and desecration of these wreaths goes totally against that."

Bonfire in the Bogside
Bonfire in the Bogside

Ahead of the fires, organisers had been urged to comply with coronavirus regulations that limit the size of outdoor gatherings to 30 people.

In the Bogside, a significantly larger number gathered to watch as it was lit late on Saturday night.

The fires were ignited just over a month after loyalist bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland to usher in the main date of the Protestant loyal order calendar, the Twelfth of July.

Many loyalist bonfire builders face similar criticism on an annual basis, with nationalist items and symbols regularly burned on the Eleventh Night.