Northern Ireland

Bonfires lit to mark Eleventh Night

A bonfire burning in front of a William of Orange Mural Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption A bonfire on the Sandy Row was smaller than it was in previous years

Bonfires have been lit in parts of Northern Ireland on the Eleventh night, although crowds have been smaller than previous years.

It followed calls from the Orange Order for members to forego the traditional bonfires as they attract large crowds.

In early April, the Orange Order cancelled all its traditional Twelfth of July parades due to the Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings.

The organisation does not organise bonfires.

However, it has said it would prefer for them to be cancelled.

The fire and rescue service said between 18:00 BST on Saturday and 01:00 on Sunday it responded to 24 bonfire-related incidents.

This represented a fall of 29.5% compared to 2019.

Image caption The bonfire at Duncairn Gardens in north Belfast was among 24 incidents firefighters responded to on Saturday night

Rev Mervyn Gibson, the Orange Order's grand secretary, said on Friday that bonfires were always organised independently by local community groups.

"I would prefer not to see any bonfires, I've said that all along, but where there are bonfires I would encourage people to act responsibly," he said.

"If there's more than 30 people there, then head home. I won't be going out to a bonfire tonight and I love them, simply because I don't want to increase the crowds out."

Smaller attendances

Fires were lit in loyalist areas across Belfast, with crowds number in the hundreds at some of the pyres.

The fire service was in attendance at some of the fires, including at Pitt Park on the Lower Newtownards Road, where a fire crew intervened and extinguished part of the fire to protect nearby property.

Image caption A bonfire lit to mark Eleventh Night in the Ballysillan area of Belfast

Eleventh Night bonfires take place annually ahead of the Twelfth of July.

Traditionally, tens of thousands of people attend parades on 12 July, which is held every year to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Lower attendances were seen at bonfires across the city, including at this bonfire on the Shankill Road

Parades are usually held on 12 July but due to the Twelfth falling on a Sunday this year, it is being celebrated on Monday 13 July.

King William III - the Dutch-born Protestant better known as William of Orange or King Billy - defeated the Catholic King James II in County Meath in July 1690.

This year, the Parades Commission has been notified of more than 250 parades between 11 and13 July.

Up to 30 people are now allowed to meet outdoors while social distancing, under the latest coronavirus lockdown relaxation guidelines.

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