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2021 file image of flags being hung on an anti-internment bonfire in the Bogside area of Derry. Alamy Stock Photo

Internment bonfire in Derry called off following 'fighting and anti-socal behaviour' last year

The fires are associated with the August anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles.

AN ANTI-INTERNMENT bonfire in Derry has been cancelled due to anti-social behaviour at last year’s event.

The bonfire is traditionally lit on land at Meenan Square in the Bogside area of Derry City on 15 August.

The date also coincides with the Catholic Feast of the Assumption.

The fires are associated with the August anniversary of the introduction of internment without trial during the Troubles.

In an online statement, Republican Socialist Youth Movement (RSYM) said this year’s bonfire has been cancelled after “fighting and antisocial behaviour” last year.

Last year’s bonfire was widely condemned after Union Jacks, poppy wreaths and an Israeli flag was placed upon it.

The bonfire was investigated by the PSNI as a hate crime and police also investigated reports of gunshots being fired.

Speaking at the time, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson called the bonfire “an outrageous and offensive display of hate” while Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly labelled the bonfires as disgraceful, adding there was “no place for these displays of hate anywhere in our society”.

‘Concerns of the community’

In an online statement over the weekend, the RSYM said: “In the last few months, the Republican Socialist Youth Movement have been engaging with the Bogside Republican Youth regarding the highly attended annual bonfire in Meenan Square.

“After several conversations with the bonfire builders, they have informed us that after discussions with the local residents, they have made the decision not to have their bonfire due to young people from outside the area fighting and causing antisocial behaviour last year.”

The RSYM said the builders of the bonfire “understand and respect the concerns of the community and this is why this decision has been made”.

The group also “commended the decision of the Bogside Republican Youth and the bonfire builders to put the community first”.

SDLP councillor Lilian Seenoi Barr is the chair of the Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Bonfire Working Group.

She welcomed the decision to not proceed with building the bonfire in Meenan Square this year and commended the “clear leadership from the young people of the Bogside”.

Fx5Xz-pWcAUf7VD SDLP councillor Lilian Seenoi Barr.

“I know the whole community will be pleased at this decision and many residents will be relieved that the area will be able to avoid the kind of anti-social behaviour that has been seen in the past,” said Seenoi Barr.

“It is clear that the young people of the Bogside and the builders of the bonfire have decided to put their community first through their decision.

“Hopefully, this can be a sign of things to come for our local community and we can make progress across the rest of the city as well.”

The SDLP councillor added that the decision “calls attention to the pressing need for additional youth services across the city as the current lack of provision has been a catalyst for some young people to turn to anti-social behaviour in the past”.

She added: “These challenges have only been worsened by the cost-of-living crisis as well as the removal of programs delivered by the Northern Ireland Education Authority which had proved extremely successful in combatting this issue.

“I believe our local Council and the Education Authority need to step up to this challenge and ensure that all areas of the city have access to youth services so we can give our young people an opportunity.”

-With additional reporting from Press Association

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