By Jonathan McCambridge and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
A Sinn Féin minister has appealed for calm ahead of the lighting of traditional “Eleventh Night” bonfires across Northern Ireland.
Conor Murphy said it is a time of tension and concern for a number of families.
On Thursday night, police said they were treating an incident where petrol bombs were thrown near a bonfire at Adam Street in north Belfast as a hate crime.
The bonfire, which was the subject of failed legal action to stop its erection last year, has been built close to an interface with a nationalist area.
It has long been tradition to burn bonfires in loyalist neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland on the night of July 11th as a way of celebrating the upcoming 12th of July.
Most “Eleventh Night” fires pass off without incident, with organisers promoting them as family-friendly community celebrations, but a number have become the source of controversy in recent years.
This year it is estimated that about 250 bonfires will be lit across Northern Ireland.
Stormont Finance Minister Mr Murphy said he hopes the Twelfth celebrations will pass peacefully.
He said: “We hope for that.
“A lot of the tensions are around what can be described as hate crimes where various effigies or images of people on the other side of the political divide are featured on bonfires.”
Mr Murphy said he hopes there can be dialogue in the future to ensure the same issues do not keep repeating.
He said: “Unfortunately for a lot of communities, particularly in Belfast and other urban areas, it becomes a time of tension and worry and concern for families of young kids.”
Earlier, DUP Policing Board member Joanne Bunting urged those preparing for celebrations on July 11th and 12th not to be provoked.
She said: “The attack on the Adam Street bonfire is an obvious and deliberate attempt to increase tensions and to provoke a response.
“I would urge everyone, both in that area and across Northern Ireland, not to respond to such attempts.
“The enjoyment of celebrations over the 11th and 12th July period should not be destroyed by the intolerance of others and attempts to provoke trouble.
“So far this year we have not faced some of the difficulties that have arisen in previous years.
“Unfortunately there are some elements within our society who want to provoke this trouble, but I would urge cool heads at this time.
“We want to see the many events that will take place over the next few days highlighted as the cultural and community celebrations they are, not because of trouble arising.”
Meanwhile, Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging anyone enjoying the 12th celebrations to be aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol intake.
Kevin Bailey, the PHA’s regional lead for drugs and alcohol, said: “Many will be making plans to celebrate the Twelfth and we are encouraging those who will choose to drink alcohol to keep an eye on what and how much they’re drinking.
“We understand that it’s a time to relax and let off some steam, but by setting a plan you can avoid binge drinking, which has been shown to have adverse effects on our health and safety.
“Binge drinking, which can be as little as just a few drinks, can have a major impact on health such as causing damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach.
“Over-indulging in alcohol can also affect relationships and spoil the holiday for you, your family and friends.
“Drinking too much can also mean more risk-taking behaviour, causing more accidents and impacting on an already under pressure health service.”