A long-standing Waterside community worker has described the burning of an image of Derry republican, Tony Taylor, on a loyalist 11th night bonfire as an isolated incident and said real progress has been made in relation to the management of celebratory pyres in the city.
Brian Dougherty, who for years championed peace and reconciliation efforts through his work at St. Columb's Park House, was responding to claims by Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion that there's been a lack of community leadership in unionist areas over the incineration of effigies and images on traditional loyalist bonfires.
Mr. Dougherty pointed to the efforts of those behind the inaugural New Gate Fringe Festival in the Fountain, which succeeded in delivering as safe and clean an 11th night bonfire as could be hoped for on the eve of the Relief of Derry demonstrations yesterday.
He said weeks of multi-agency and community talks had resulted in a well-managed bonfire at New Gate on Friday, saying this was a clear example of the kind of community leadership Mrs. McCallion claimed was lacking.
Listing what this leadership had achieved, Mr. Dougherty said: "A local fun day early afternoon. A bonfire lit with locals and tourists in attendance. No tyres or toxic materials. The full support and cooperation of the PSNI, City Centre Initiative and Derry City and Strabane District Council, who cleared the site at 6am in advance if the parade today (Saturday). Sorry, but that does represent leadership. One of five bonfires last night (Friday)."