Poppy wreath and Union Flags burned on Londonderry bonfires

One of the Londonderry bonfires before it was ignited on Saturday night

One of the Londonderry bonfires before it was ignited on Saturday night

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Union Flags, an effigy of a British soldier being hanged and a cut-out of a RUC Land Rover were among the items that went up in flames during August 15 bonfires in Londonderry on Saturday night.

The bonfires – understood to be a tradition stemming from a Catholic Holy Day – were set alight as thousands of music fans enjoyed Club MTV in Ebrington Square in the city.

Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said he saw “a picture of another bonfire in the city which was going to burn a wreath of poppies”.

“There is a situation of tit-for-tat after 11th night bonfires, but I believe burning a poppy wreath has a more sinister element,” he added.

“One I saw clearly came from a cenotaph where you could see a card with a message on it. It is very very hurtful.”

The DUP politician said the bonfires were set alight on the same night as “all the community enjoyed themselves at Club MTV”.

A PSNI spokesman said: “We are aware that a number of flags and other items were placed on the bonfire last night.”

The largest bonfire was built in the Bogside area of the city.

Sinn Fein councillor for ‘The Moor’ in Londonderry, Kevin Campbell, said: “There were bonfires around the city and there would probably have been a couple of hundred if not more at each one.

“Families will take their wee’uns to watch it and then before 12, families will go home and out will come the blue bag parade.”

Mr Campbell said the August 15 bonfire “is part of an old tradition”.

“It is the Holy Day of the Ascension of Our Lady into heaven in the Catholic church, and it has been going back a long time. But there is nothing religious about this,” he added.

“Going back 40 or 50 years that would be the reason, but now if you asked anyone standing around one they probably wouldn’t have a clue.

“It has nothing to do with internment which was on the ninth.”

When asked if he condemned the burning of flags, he said: “I condemn that. There was a survey done in one area and 67 per cent of the people rejected it, said they didn’t want it.”

He added: “On some of the bonfires they put up Sinn Fein posters as well as Union Flags – so talk about confusion.

“As far as I am concerned there is no place in society for this type of activity.”

On Saturday thousands of Ancient Order of Hibernians members gathered in Donegal town to celebrate the feast of the assumption.

The bands travelled from around Ireland.