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Judge refuses judicial review request made by loyalist Jamie Bryson over bonfire

In the Belfast High Court, a judge denied permission for a judicial review of the decision by two Stormont ministers to take legal action against the police, which resulted in a loss.

Mr Justice Scoffield dismissed the judicial review appeal filed by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson as “academic,” noting that the legal disagreement between the PSNI and the ministers had been resolved by this point.

Last year, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon and Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey filed a complaint against the PSNI, challenging the force’s decision not to intervene in the removal of a controversial “Eleventh Night” bonfire in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay area of north Belfast. The complaint was dismissed.

In a late-night emergency hearing held just days before the bonfire was to be set, a High Court judge ruled against the plaintiffs’ claims.

A judicial review against the two ministers was filed by Bryson, who represented the bonfire builders in last year’s dispute. Bryson contended that they should have obtained the authorisation of the entire Stormont Executive before commencing legal action against the PSNI.

When deciding whether to grant leave for a full hearing, Justice Scoffield stated that the applicant had built an arguable case that the ministers had behaved in violation of the Constitution.

He asserted that because the ministers’ legal action had finally failed and the bonfire had been lighted for a long period of time, hearing a judicial review could not be justified on the basis of any practical consideration.

There had been an increase in tensions as a result of the fire, with Nationalist homeowners claiming they were living in dread and had been attacked by missiles hurled by loyalist bonfire makers.

In response to claims that the location of the bonfire was chosen to be provocative, loyalists have accused nationalists and republicans of inflaming tensions in an attempt to deprive them what they see to be a legitimate celebration of their cultural heritage.

Residents of the nearby nationalist New Lodge have complained that it has been built too close to a sensitive communal interaction, and the council has agreed.