Bonfires will be lit across Northern Ireland on Sunday evening as the traditional ‘Eleventh Night’ celebrations begin.
More than 160 pyres are expected to be lit to usher in the main date of the parade season of the Protestant faithful orders – July 12.
As July 11 falls on a Sunday this year, a number of bonfires have already been lit on Friday and Saturday evenings.
While the majority takes place each year without incident, some remain the source of community tensions, the authorities having previously intervened to remove the imposing pyres for health and safety reasons.
Some bonfires have also drawn criticism for burning election posters and effigies of politicians.
July 11 is also one of the busiest nights of the year for firefighters, who typically have to deal with a large number of emergency calls related to a bonfire.
This year’s most controversial bonfire was one erected by loyalists at Tiger’s Bay in north Belfast, near an interface with the nationalist district of New Lodge.
Two Stormont ministers, Nicola Mallon of the SDLP and Deirdre Hargey of Sinn Fein, made an unsuccessful legal offer to force police to help remove the bonfire.
Police have refused to offer protection to moving companies, fearing their intervention could lead to disorder.
The Tiger’s Bay bonfire will be lit Sunday evening.
Ms Mallon said nationalist residents living near the site suffered months of attacks, abuse and anti-social behavior while the bonfire was being erected.
But the region’s DUP deputy, William Humphrey, accused nationalist politicians of increasing tensions in the region.
Following the court ruling on Friday, PSNI Deputy Police Chief Alan Todd said: âThe Northern Ireland Police Service has been working with a range of partners and stakeholders for several months to ensure a been peaceful, and this will continue for the next number of days.
âWe urge members of local communities to remain calm over the next few days. “
The ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfires precede the July 12 parades, which will take place Monday in 100 locations across Northern Ireland.
Last year’s parades were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on public gatherings.
The Orange Order said this summer’s parades will be smaller than usual and locally based.
The normal 18 main events will be replaced by more than 100 local parades.
The Order said holding smaller parades was the best way to ensure protests continue.
The twelfth parade marks the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II in the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690 – a triumph that secured a Protestant line of succession to the British crown.