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PSNI treating Portadown bonfire attack as arson as calls made for calm

Calls for calm have been made after a bonfire was set alight in Portadown last night.

The bonfire in Edgarstown was set on fire at around midnight with firefighters tasked to the scene to quell the blaze.

The PSNI says it is treating the incident as arson.

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What the PSNI said

Bonfire in Edgarstown in Portadown was set alight. Photo courtesy of Loyalist Edgarstown Bonfire.

A spokesperson said: “Police received a report a bonfire was set alight in the Union Street area of Portadown in the early hours of Thursday, June 23rd.

“It was reported at around 12.20 am that bonfire material in the area had been set alight. NIFRS attended and the fire was subsequently extinguished.

“The incident is currently being treated as arson and enquiries are ongoing. Police would appeal to anyone with any information to contact 101 quoting reference number 34 of 23/06/22

“A report can be made using the online reporting form via www.psni.police.uk/makeareport. Information can also be provided to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”

Firefighters work to extinguish the blaze after the bonfire in Edgarstown in Portadown was set alight last night. Photo courtesy of Loyalist Edgarstown Bonfire.

It comes days after a bandsman was attacked in Woodhouse Street in Portadown in the early hours of Sunday morning after a parade.

Local Unionist politicians and the bonfire builders called for calm following the incident last night.

The bonfire builders have vowed to rebuild after last night’s attack.

Sinn Féin described the incident as ‘reckless and irresponsible’ and also called for elected representatives and community leaders to help reduce tensions.

Bonfire in Edgarstown in Portadown was set alight. Photo courtesy of Loyalist Edgarstown Bonfire.

Plea for calm from local councillor

DUP Cllr Darryn Causby said setting the bonfire alight was ‘an attempt to raise tensions’.

He said: “Sometime around Midnight Edgarstown Bonfire was set alight by individuals who made their way from the Obins Street area.

“This is no doubt an attempt to raise tensions and shows the level of intolerance that exists in some quarters for Unionist/Loyalist traditions.

“I wholeheartedly condemn this attack not only because it’s an attempt to raise tension but because it put the community at risk.

“As we approach the bonfire season I appeal for calm and restraint in the face of blatant provocation.

“I have no doubt that the malicious burning of this fire will only ensure that there is a greater unity within the Unionist/Loyalist community!

“It is now time for all political leaders to condemn this act and appeal for calm.”

What the MP said

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart said: “Last night Loyalist Edgarstown Bonfire was burnt to the ground in a blatant sectarian attack. I wholeheartedly condemn this attack and call on the PSNI to fully investigate this incident. I will be meeting the PSNI and the builders today.

“We know this is an attempt to goad the loyalist community into retaliation and to scupper our rich culture. I know that the Edgarstown people will not be deterred and it will be rebuilt within days.

“Thank you to the Northern Ireland Fire Service for their swift action.”

What the bonfire builders said

A spokesperson for Loyalist Edgarstown Bonfire which built the bonfire said: “We outright condemn the latest sectarian attack on our community from local Nationalists, who are taking their lead from their politicians who spend the entire summer demonising and criticising us.

“Is it any wonder there are extremists who pick up on their hatred and act upon it?

“We appeal for calm heads, with efforts placed in re-building the fire from the ashes in defiance of those driven by hatred.

“It does however raise questions about the intentions of Irish nationalists and their leadership, who seem content to up the ante and antagonise unionists in this way.

“It also raises serious questions about plans for the interface. The local community will not be left to defend themselves and exposed to this sort of attack.

“We await strong condemnation and leadership from Nationalist polititicians who always have a lot to say for themselves. Their silence on this hate crime will be deafening.”

What Sinn Féin said

Sinn Féin councillor Paul Duffy said elected representatives and community leaders must work together to reduce tensions.

Cllr Duffy said: “No one should take any action which puts lives and property at risk.

“There is a responsibility on all elected representatives and community leaders to do all in our power to reduce community tensions.

“The cause of the fire has yet to be established, however, if this was a deliberate attack it was reckless and irresponsible.

“There is an onus on all of us to ensure that the responses to incidents like these do not raise tensions or point the finger at whole communities which could in turn put others at risk.”

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