As Northern Ireland once again prepares for the marching season, it is becoming increasingly evident that neither the police, local politicians nor the secretary of state has any control over the gangs of so-called Loyalists constructing bonfires the size of tower blocks close to homes, businesses and children’s play areas.
Huge bonfires will be lit in loyalist areas late tonight to usher in the 12th of July, the main date in the Orange Order’s annual commemoration marking the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
While the majority of bonfires pass off without incident, last year also saw sporadic violence, with vehicles set on fire in Belfast and petrol bombs thrown at police in Derry.
The grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rev Mervyn Gibson, has described the bonfires as part of loyalist culture and “an integral part of the 12th of July period”.
While they are rarely organised formally by the Orange Order, the institution gives them a certain legitimacy and neither the grand lodge nor its grand secretary can evade culpability for any violence that ensues.