The burning of a mock police car on top of a bonfire in Co Tyrone has been widely criticised.

Bonfires are set to be lit at an estimated 300 locations in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland for the annual July 11th commemorations before thousands of Orange Order members take part in marches on July 12th.

One of the first bonfires to be lit was in a yard in the area in Moygashel, near Dungannon, on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of pallets were placed in a cylindrical tower to create the structure.

A Vauxhall car decorated like a PSNI vehicle was placed on top of the bonfire prior to the burning.

The bonfire was also adorned with an Irish Tricolour flag and a banner reading “Saoirse don Phalaistin” – Freedom for Palestine.

Hundreds of people gathered to watch the towering pyre burn. The unstable structure quickly toppled over into some trees.

Kenny Donaldson, director of the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims’ group, said the burning of the fake police car was “wrong on every level”, as he rejected an assertion that it represented artistic expression.

The bonfire in Moygashel near Dungannon, Co Tyrone. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The bonfire in Moygashel near Dungannon, Co Tyrone. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Donaldson said: “Some will claim that this is just a bit of crack and that those who have issues with it are way too sensitive or motivated by anti-Protestant/unionist cultural bias.

“Let us be clear why we oppose this action: each and every member of the PSNI puts their life on the line each and every day within a society where there remains individuals committed to murdering them.”

Mr Donaldson paid respect to the families of murdered PSNI officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr, as well as those who had survived attempts on their life, including Peadar Heffron and John Caldwell.

He added: “Those who stand by this development and do not speak out against it are complicit with this terrible misjudgement which has caused hurt and bewilderment among the police community and among many others.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie described the burning of the model as “absolutely disgraceful”.

“Those responsible undermine their own cries for cultural respect,” he posted on X.

It is not the first time a bonfire in the area has attracted significant attention.

In 2023, a boat was placed on top of the pyre in Moygashel, themed as an anti-Northern Ireland Protocol bonfire.

The vessel was to represent unionist and loyalist communities’ opposition to post-Brexit trading arrangements across the Irish Sea.

The boat was adorned with an Irish flag, a picture of then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar and a banner that read: “Good Friday Agreement? That ship has sailed.” – PA