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Bandsmen and Orange Order members of No 3 District Loyal Orange Lodge parade pass the nationalist area around Ardoyne shops in Belfast. Liam McBurney/PA
Northern Ireland

Teenager in critical condition after being burned at Eleventh Night bonfire

Thousands took to the streets today with Twelfth of July parades passing off peacefully.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Jul 2021

A 17-YEAR-OLD BOY is in critical condition after suffering burns to his face and body at an Eleventh Night bonfire in Silverstream Crescent, north Belfast last night.  

The young man is being treated for his injuries in hospital, with police appealing witnesses to come forward. 

“Our enquiries are continuing to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident. We are aware that there were a number of people in the area at the time of the incident, so we would appeal to them to come forward to assist with our enquiries,” a PSNI spokesperson said. 

“We are also aware of social media footage that has been posted online in relation to this incident. We would ask that it is not shared, but to contact police with any information they might have.”

“We are also aware of social media footage that has been posted online in relation to this incident. We would ask that it is not shared, but to contact police with any information they might have.

Today, thousands of Orange Order members took to the streets across Northern Ireland to mark the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season.

This year’s Twelfth of July parades were smaller than usual and locally based due to public health concerns.

Organisers stuck to plans to have parades of no more than 500 people, even though the limit on public gatherings imposed due to Covid-19 has now been removed.

The normal 18 main events were replaced by more than 100 local parades which took place in a number of cities, towns and villages.

The Order said organising smaller parades was the best way to ensure the demonstrations went ahead.

As well as the reduced size of the parades, there were fewer spectators lining the roads this year.

The Twelfth parades mark the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690 – a triumph that secured a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson marched with the Ballinran Orange Lodge in Kilkeel, Co Down.

He told the PA news agency: “This is the community in which I grew up, my family still live here and it is great to come back and to meet people that I haven’t met up with in years.

“It is a very much scaled-down parade of what it would normally be but it is good to see some parading resuming on the Twelfth. I think people are just glad to have a day out.” 

The vast majority of Twelfth events are peaceful, although in some years there have been volatile flashpoints involving Orange lodges and nationalist residents.

The Parades Commission, which rules on contentious gatherings in Northern Ireland, had imposed conditions on a number of marches.

Up to 2,000 police officers were on duty throughout the day, but no trouble was reported.

There was a significant police presence for parades in Belfast on Monday through the Ardyone area and past St Patrick’s Catholic Church on Donegall Street.

Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said: “I am pleased that today has passed without incident.

“I would like to thank and acknowledge all of the people who helped make this a safe and enjoyable day for many.

“We will be continuing our duties throughout the night to keep our communities safe.”

In Belfast, a number of small parades took place before the bands gathered at Carlisle Circus ahead of the march through the city centre and on to Shaw’s Bridge.

Traditionally, parade participants congregate at fields where they hear speeches and prayers delivered by senior Orangemen before a return march, but that did not happen this year.

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland had called on everyone attending a parade to respect the Covid-19 guidelines.

Last year’s Twelfth of July parades were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings.

The Twelfth parades were preceded by the traditional burning of Eleventh Night bonfires, which this year took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) spokesman said: “Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service has dealt with a significant increase in emergency calls and mobilisations to bonfire related incidents over July 9, 10 and 11.

“The service was exceptionally busy on each of the three nights, with direct intervention required by NIFRS to protect properties from radiated heat, embers, etc. from the bonfires.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson condemned the burning of Irish tricolour flags on some bonfires.

Donaldson told the BBC: “I don’t want to see election posters or flags burnt on bonfires, I think we can celebrate our culture and our tradition in a respectful way.

“Respect is a two-way street – if you want to gain respect for your traditions and culture you’ve got to show respect for the traditions, culture and symbols of other communities.”

Donaldson said work needed to continue to address safety issues around the size of some of the bonfires.

“I think we need to continue working with those who organise bonfires to look at safety issues and to look at the height of bonfires, where they are located.

“In the end public safety is absolutely paramount when it comes to this.”

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