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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Cooling fires ahead of 11th night
Dozens of bonfires are set to be lit across Northern Ireland
Bonfires are lit in Protestant areas of NI on 11 July
One of the biggest dates on the loyalist calendar is approaching - the night of 11 July, when bonfires blaze across Northern Ireland.

While it is a night of celebration for loyalists, the bonfires have come in for criticism from some quarters.

Among these are that they raise community tensions and damage the environment, especially through the use of burning tyres.

However, efforts are being made in some areas to improve the situation.

The bonfires are built by the members of the Protestant community ahead of the 12 July commemoration of William of Orange's victory over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Paul Hoey, chairman of the Crown Project in east Belfast, said efforts had been made to scale down one of the city's largest bonfires at Pitt Park off the lower Newtownards Road.

"Last year the bonfire was massive, they've downsized it considerably this year," Mr Hoey said.

"There's no tyres, there's no dumping, there's people there every night to make sure there's no dumping of wood or anything else."

Bob Cameron, environmental health officer at Larne Borough Council, said the council had been working with the local community on the issue for some time.

"In Larne we've been meeting for several years now all the bonfire organisers plus statutory agencies from very early on to talk about issues."

He said one bonfire being held near a children's play area had now been concreted off to keep it small and stop it causing damage, while the whole event had been turned into more of a "street party".

'Shadowy side'

However, SDLP assembly member for East Londonderry John Dallat said more should be done to enforce laws against burning dangerous materials at bonfires.

Mr Dallat added that while progress had been made on the issue, there was still a "shadowy side" to bonfires.

"The paramilitaries are still involved in many areas, if not overtly, they're sending out the younger fry to do it and of course Catholic families come under extreme pressure during these periods," he said.

There was a paramilitary "show of strength" at the Pitt Park bonfire last year, but Mr Hoey said there would be no repeat.

"I got a guarantee from people on the ground there will be no show of strength this year," he said.

Mr Hoey said there had been a dramatic change in bonfires over the years.

"We've come a long way over the last 10 or 15 years.

"There was a bonfire on every street corner, now we're down to a small number of bonfires that are organised and, I have to say, pretty well organised."

Call for bonfire licences
24 Jul 04 |  Northern Ireland
Safety warning for eleventh night
11 Jul 05 |  Northern Ireland

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